Auteur: Andrew Rettman
Russia has vetoed a UN resolution on Srebrenica, as EU powers repeat 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.
Ten UNSC members voted in favour. Angola, China, Nigeria and Venezuela abstained.
The Russian UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, justified the No vote by saying it would “reopen old wounds” in the Balkans 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 … it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that they [Serbs] suffered, at least, no less than others”.
The No 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 detailed forensic evidence.
For his part, 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 in letting Srebrenica take place by preventing Nato forces from helping 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’s vote.
The US envoy, Samantha Power, who was a 24-year old reporter in Sarajevo at the time of the events, 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 has called genocide-recognition a “sham” and 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 has said he will attend the Srebrenica memorial on Saturday even though he denies the factuality of what took place.
He is also likely to face awkward questions from press after he meets European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker i 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 doing what it can to disrupt the process and to cultivate old ties with Belgrade and Banja Luka.
It has also tried to enflame the political crisis in Macedonia by saying revelations of high-level corruption against the government is a Western plot to bring down its Russia-friendly PM.
Gerard Araud, the French UN ambassador, in his remarks on Wednesday, noted that: “France, and the European Union, wants all the Balkan countries to be a full part of the European project”.
German chancellor Angela Merkel i, who is on a tour of Balkan capitals, in Tirana on Wednesday, also repeated the EU’s accession promise.
“May I tell you that 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 said.
"I can tell you, nothing will be artificially delayed. There won't be any difficulties constructed”.
She said the promise is “not just on paper but … [a] reality”.
"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 and more Christians live in our country - that is completely wrong”, she added.