Serbian leader forced to postpone Bosnia visit over arrest of Muslim ex-fighter

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Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic Monday called off a visit to Bosnia after a member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency opposed his trip over the arrest of a former Bosnian Muslim fighter on Serbian war crimes charges.

Nikolic had been set to arrive in Sarajevo on Tuesday, on his first official visit since 2012.

Announcing that he had been forced to change his plans the president’s office said: “Unfortunately, instead of easing the tensions in the region through a dialogue there was a demand to postpone the visit.”

Nikolic would only visit Bosnia “when all three members of the presidency will show unity and readiness,” the statement added.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia’s presidency, had earlier Monday called for Nikolic to delay his visit over the arrest in Switzerland of Naser Oric, commander of Bosnian Muslims in Srebenica during the country’s 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war.

Srebrenica is the town where Bosnian Serb forces slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in mid-July 1995 in the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.

Oric was arrested on June 11 in the Geneva region, where he was to attend events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Serbia accuses Oric and four other people of committing war crimes in July 1992 in Zalazje near Sarajevo, where nine ethnic Serbs were killed.

Izetbegovic said Nikolic’s visit to Sarajevo should be “postponed until the extradition procedure for Naser Oric…is over and he returns to Bosnia-Hercegovina.”

Serbia has 18 days from the day of Oric’s arrest to submit an official extradition request.

Relations between Serbia and Bosnia have been strained since the Bosnian War, during which Belgrade took the side of Bosnian Serb forces.

After the war Bosnia was divided into two semi-autonomous entities — the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The two are linked by weak central institutions, including the tripartite presidency.