Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Russia plays politics with Balkan genocide

  • Merkel: 'The idea that we wouldn't want Albania in the EU because Muslims live here ... is completely wrong' (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

Russia has vetoed a UN resolution on Srebrenica, as EU powers repeat their promise on Balkan enlargement.

The UK-Dutch resolution, condemning the 1995 “genocide” and calling for “reconciliation”, failed to pass in New York on Wednesday (8 July) when Russia, a UN Security Council (UNSC) veto-holder, said No.

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Ten UNSC members voted in favour. Angola, China, Nigeria, and Venezuela abstained.

Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, justified the No vote by saying it would “reopen old wounds” because it “singled out” Serbia for blame.

“If you look at the result of a decade of conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia … they [Serbs] suffered, at least, no less than others”.

The UN vote makes no difference in terms of historical fact.

The murder, by Serb forces, of 8,000 Muslim boys and men, has been legally designated as “genocide” by two independent courts: The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

ICTY investigators, over 15 years, also collected millions of pages of witness statements, audio and video transcripts, and forensic evidence.

Matthew Rycroft, the UK’s UN ambassador, said: “Russia’s actions tarnish the memory of all those who died”.

“It is denial, and not this draft resolution, that will cause division … it undermines the prospects for a secure, peaceful future for Bosnia”.

He also admitted Western guilt, when Nato failed to help Dutch peacekeepers to stop the Serbian army.

“We did not act. The consequences of our inaction reverberate to this day”, he said,

The French envoy voiced “profound regret” on Russia.

The US envoy, Samantha Power, who was a reporter in Sarajevo in 1995, recalled seeing scraps of human remains, and the half-buried shoes and walking sticks of Muslim victims.

“Russia's veto is heartbreaking for those families and it is a further stain on this [UN] Council's record”, she said.

But the veto was welcomed by Serb leader Alexandar Vucic, who said his country shouldn’t be “humiliated”.

It was also welcomed by Miroslav Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader, who is planning to name a street in the Bosnian Serb capital, Banja Luka, after Ratko Mladic, one of the Serb commanders who orchestrated the killing.

The situation puts Vucic in a strange position.

He will attend the Srebrenica memorial on Saturday even though he denies what took place.

He is also likely to face awkward questions when he meets European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday.

Serbia, like the rest of the former Yugoslav states and Kosovo, is on the path to EU accession.

But Russia is trying to disrupt the process and to cultivate influence in Belgrade, Banja Luka, and Skopje.

It has also tried to enflame the crisis in Macedonia by saying revelations of high-level corruption are a Western plot to bring down its Russia-friendly PM.

Enlargement promise

Gerard Araud, the French UN ambassador, in his remarks on Wednesday, added that: “France, and the European Union, wants all the Balkan countries to be a full part of the European project”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a tour of Balkan capitals, in Tirana on Wednesday also repeated the EU accession promise.

“It is in our own interests that our promise that the countries in the Western Balkans have a European perspective, that we realise this perspective, because that concerns our credibility”, she noted.

She said the promise is “not just on paper but … reality”.

"I can tell you, nothing will be artificially delayed".

She added: "Four million Muslims live in Germany, and we live well together. So the idea that we wouldn't want to have Albania in the European Union because Muslims live here ... that's completely wrong".

Opinion

Srebrenica revisited

Twenty years after the massacre, Srebrenica still triggers dispute, and an endless stream of resolutions.

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