Istanbul trilateral meeting creates controversy in BiH

Istanbul trilateral meeting creates controversy in BiH

The meeting between Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić and the member of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović, in Bosnia and Herzegovina triggered controversy since it is not known whom Izetbegović represented at the Istanbul meeting.

The meeting was not an unexpected event and the BiH public has known about it for several days. There was no bigger reaction at the meeting announcement, but on Monday, the country’s politicians sent different signals about it. The press announcement regarding the meeting agenda was disputed since nobody believed that three politicians important for the co-operation in the wider region of the Western Balkans would meet only to discuss just the route of the future highway which is supposed to link Belgrade and Sarajevo. But, after the meeting, Izetbegović told the media that the three politicians agreed about the route and said it represents the compromise between two possible proposals discussed in BiH institutions. Also, he added that they discussed a number of important issues in the region. After the meeting, Vučić said that one of the topics were the relations between Bosniaks and Serbs, but also the relations between the two states.

“We agreed that, no matter what happens, peace and stability must be preserved. What is mostly important to me is what I said -Serbia respects the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dayton Peace Agreement. Everything that we ask of Bosniaks is that the Serbs in Republika Srpska and everywhere else in BiH feel safe,” Vučić emphasised.

This statement confirmed that the cards on the table during the meeting were more important than one highway.

But, the real question is -whom Izetbegović represented? A Serb member of BiH Presidency, Mladen Ivanić, confirmed to IBNA that three members of the Presidency did not discuss the meeting nor authorised Izetbegović to represent BiH as a state at the Istanbul meeting.

“I do not know how he went to the meeting, but we, as BiH’s joint institution, did not receive an invitation and also did not discuss what stance we would hold over the topics,” Ivanić said.

Asked about whether Izetbegović had received a private invitation from Erdogan, Ivanić said that he was not aware of anything like that.

The sharpest reaction, as was expected, came from the Republika Srpska President and leader of the Alliance of independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Milorad Dodik, who said that this is a “serious precedent”.

“It is dangerous for BiH, and it comes from those who are persistently trying to present themselves as ‘defenders of the state’. That is what Bakir Izetbegovic is doing. But, in fact, it destroys the essence of BiH institutions and its existence,” Dodik said.

He went on to say that the RS has excellent relations with Serbia, and that Turkey “has been dramatically  involved in relations with its support directly and solely to the Bosniaks”.

A member of his party and MP in the state Parliament, Lazar Prodanović, contrary to his party boss, said that he has nothing negative to say about this kind of meetings, as he did not say something wrong in case of the recent meeting between Erdogan and the Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, where also relations between nations in BiH were one of the topics.

“It is necessary to ease the relations between nations in BiH and it is our common interest. But there will be no moves forward without internal agreement in BiH,” said Prodanović to journalists.

President of the Party of Democratic Progress RS (PDP RS), Branislav Borenović, also said that there is no danger from this kind of meetings.

“Every meeting, which has the aim to create a better environment for raising the level of economic and political co-operation in the region, is beneficial and welcomed. I hope that participants from BiH, in such interstate meetings, present the attitudes agreed at the BiH Presidency session(s), in order to raise co-operation with the states of the region onto a better level,” Borenović said to IBNA, speaking as a leader of an opposition party in the Republika Srpska.

Mario Karamatic, a Croat delegate in the BiH House of Peoples, thinks that it is good that Serbia and Croatia are involved in resolving the crisis in BiH, as well as EU officials, and, at the end of the day, the Republic of Turkey, too.

“However, going to Turkey all by himself, makes Izetbegović frivolous, since he may possibly represent only about 23 percent of BiH, and not the whole country. I think that this is a continuity of his wrong policy direction because it is not long ago that he claimed decisions about BiH must be made in Sarajevo and in BiH, and now he would negotiate something. He can, of course, present the views of the Bosniak people, but in no case is it the other two constituent peoples in BiH,” Karamatic said.

The Izetbegović visit, a meeting and its results will be clarified in the next days, when he returns. The long term results should be visible in the coming weeks, but nobody expects something revolutionary to happen because this has been just one of the controversial, highest level meetings…/IBNA