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20 Jul, 2023 19:21

UN denies Bosnia peace role

The world body claims it was not in charge of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s international overseer
UN denies Bosnia peace role

The UN Security Council does not appoint the “high representative” who effectively rules Bosnia-Herzegovina, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written in response to the chair of the country’s presidency, who questioned the legitimacy of current HR Christian Schmidt.

“With regard to the civilian implementation of the peace settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I wish to recall that the United Nations is not a signatory to the Dayton Peace Agreement, nor a member of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, the relevant body for the appointment of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Guterres wrote to Zeljka Cvijanovic, who currently chairs the three-member presidency, in a letter made public on Friday.

The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the 1992-95 civil war between Bosnia’s Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Annex 10, which created the post of the high representative, says he is “to be appointed consistent with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.” 

Cvijanovic had written to Guterres earlier this month, asking if he could help to locate a document that showed Schmidt, a former German agriculture minister, had been confirmed by the Security Council. She noted that the UN database only showed the resolution on Schmidt’s appointment receiving two votes in favor and 13 abstentions in July 2021, and thus failing to pass.

Speaking to the media in Bosnia on Friday, Cvijanovic called the secretary-general’s letter “unworthy of the world body and international law.” She pointed out that the UN Security Council had voted to approve every prior HR and routinely receives their reports, so it was disingenuous for Guterres to now pretend otherwise.

“Why did the UN waste time to confirm a whole series of high representatives in the Security Council if this wasn’t their purview?” Cvijanovic asked. “Did they usurp someone’s prerogative? And why, then, would they put Schmidt’s appointment on the agenda – which, by the way, failed to get Security Council support – if they have nothing to do with it?”

The UN is in fact a member of the Peace Implementation Council, the ad hoc body established to help implement the peace treaty. While it is not on the Steering Board, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) says the Steering Board is subordinate to the HR and acts as his executive and advisory council, not his superior.

The publication of the secretary-general’s letter has caused a diplomatic scandal as well. It was dated July 14 and addressed to Cvijanovic, but never actually reached her. Instead, someone in Bosnia’s diplomatic service leaked it to an Al Jazeera journalist, who posted it on Twitter with a caption reading “You asked for a document, here you go.”

Cvijanovic’s inquiry was part of the ongoing dispute about the legitimacy of Schmidt, who is not recognized by the Bosnian Serbs, Russia or China. Western countries insist he is in fact the high representative, which Schmidt has maintained entitles him to the absolute power to impose laws and sack elected officials. 

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