SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The Croat and Muslim Bosniak members of Bosnia’s inter-ethnic three-man presidency declined on Tuesday to meet Russia’s visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying he had shown disrespect towards their state.
Lavrov, whose nation is a champion of Serbian interests in Bosnia and the wider Balkans, met the Serb member of the presidency Milorad Dodik on Monday and again on Tuesday.
Croat presidency member Zeljko Komsic said the first meeting, in the Serb Republic’s government office just outside the capital Sarajevo, was insulting as no national flag was on display despite the Russian being on an official visit.
“Mr. Lavrov, as one of the worlds’ three top diplomats … is sending us a message … which we interpret as disrespectful and a denial of the state he is visiting,” Komsic told reporters.
He and Bosniak Muslim presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic did not attend a planned meeting with Lavrov at the presidency building in Sarajevo, where the Russian met Dodik again.
Komsic said that Lavrov, who on Monday backed the Serb Republic parliament’s resolution on military neutrality, knew a regional legislature cannot decide such strategic policy.
“We are aware that we are small and weak, but we are not ready to be a hostage in any kind of games by Russia when it comes to their relations with the European Union and NATO members,” Komsic said.
Lavrov also urged the closure of the office of an international peace overseer, set up as part of the U.S.-brokered Dayton accord to end Bosnia’s war 25 years ago, saying foreign protectors should have left long ago.
Under the peace deal, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions, the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Bosniaks and Croats, which are linked via a weak central government.
There was no immediate reaction from Lavrov or the Moscow government to Komsic’s comments.
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