U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday warned Bosnian Serb leaders that talks of secession are "unacceptable" and urged them to stop feuding and start reforming their country.
"It is totally unacceptable to see that, 17 years after the end of the war, ... anybody may question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia," Clinton said after she and top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton met with the three-man Bosnian presidency.
With their stop in Sarajevo, Clinton and Ashton began a joint tour of the Western Balkans focusing on troubling topics facing the region. The two diplomats joined forces to strengthen the messages they plan to deliver.
Clinton's remarks targeted the most powerful Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, who has stepped up rhetoric, saying that Bosnia was "stillborn" and hinting at a secession of the territory dominated by Serbs.
She said that Bosnia's prosperity and stability will be protected if it takes a path leading towards EU and NATO membership.
But ethnic leaders - Muslims, Serbs and Croats - must stop hobbling each other and agree to reform the complicated, inefficient governing system put in place by the international community to end the 1992-95 war, she said.
"Bosnia, without a doubt, belongs in (the) EU ... but (its) leaders must be ready to compromise to serve the interest of their people," Clinton said.
The peace agreement, which also serves as constitution, divided Bosnia into two nearly sovereign "entities," one for Muslims and Croats, the other for Serbs.
Each of the entities has its own full administration and is, effectively, stronger than the joint central government. The U.S. and the EU are now pressing leaders of the ethnic communities to cede their powers to the central government, in order to strengthen it.
"Bosnia has no time to waste on unproductive discussions ... Political leaders must do what the majority of citizens in this country wants, and that is Euro-Atlantic integration," Ashton said.
The absence of reforms has prevented Bosnia from even applying for EU membership, which leaves it far behind all other former Yugoslav republics.
Bosnia was torn by war pitting the Serbs against Muslims and Croats from 1992 until 1995. Some 100,000 died in fighting and millions were displaced in campaigns of ethnic cleansing.
After Sarajevo, Ashton and Clinton departed for Belgrade, with plans to travel on to Pristina, where they will press for a swift restart of the EU-facilitated dialogue on normalization between Serbia and Kosovo.
On their tour they were also scheduled to visit Albania and Croatia.
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