Talk of partitioning Kosovo has heightened tensions within the area and provoked public alarm, with Serbian bishops calling on believers to hope for the “salvation of Kosovo”.

The response follows statements by Serbian and Kosovar leaders that splitting Kosovo, or a swapping of territories, could also be on the playing cards.

Kosovo, with a 90 p.c Albanian inhabitants, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The US has since advocated its independence, however Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo in addition to its ally Russia.

Since then, the connection between the international locations has remained tense they usually have struggled to achieve an settlement in EU-brokered “normalisation” negotiations, which started seven years in the past.

Many warn that partitioning Kosovo may provoke extra ethnic battle within the surrounding area, and will trigger a ripple impact in close by Bosnia and Herzegovina – paving the best way for Bosnia’s Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS), comprising 49 p.c of Bosnian territory, to secede.

While discuss of partition and secession will not be essentially new, latest conferences between Serb officers – from each Serbia and Republika Srpska – and members of US President Donald Trump’s administration in addition to his former marketing campaign aides have raised eyebrows.

While on a go to to Washington, DC, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic advised Reuters on July 31 that he had mentioned partitioning Kosovo with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. 

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“The model of partition or delimitation is a proposal that I have pointed at as a solution … now all cards are on the table,” Dacic stated following the assembly.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has additionally proposed a territorial swap alongside ethnic strains, whereas Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has stated he’s towards partition however open to discussing a “correction” of borders.

Under the US and European-mediated Dayton peace settlement signed in December 1995, Bosnia was break up into two entities – the “Federation” for Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and “Republika Srpska” (RS) for Bosnian Serbs, ending the practically four-year conflict.

Milorad Dodik, president of RS and chief of the separatist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) social gathering, as soon as described because the “darling” of the worldwide group, has been below US sanctions since January 2017, partly for his requires secession and defiance of the constitutional courtroom.

In January Bosnian on-line journal Zurnal broke the information {that a} Russian-backed militia was organising a paramilitary unit to again Dodik’s separatist aspirations.

Dodik, who claims that Bosnia is just not an actual state, has for greater than a decade been overtly calling for RS to interrupt away, saying that the “final frame” would ideally embrace RS uniting with Serbia.

Immediately following discuss of Kosovo’s partition, Dodik introduced that if Kosovo turns into a member of the UN, RS would comply with go well with.

“In this aspect, resolving relations between Belgrade and Pristina on a permanent basis should also mean solving the question of Republika Srpska’s status,” Dodik stated. “After all permanent borders haven’t even been set here.”

Members of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) stand guard subsequent to a statue of former US President Bill Clinton throughout a ceremony marking the 4th of July in Pristina [Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images]

Jasmin Mujanovic, a political scientist who focuses on southeastern Europe, advised Al Jazeera {that a} transfer in direction of secession by the RS authorities “will instantly set off battle, a battle that by its very nature will attract every of Bosnia’s neighbours.

“That’s precisely why the US has historically backed Bosnia’s statehood, because a sovereign, democratic, and territorially integrated Bosnia and Herzegovina is the foundation for stability throughout the entire Western Balkans.”

Serb politicians equivalent to Dacic and Dodik have talked of partition and secession for years, however analysts say this time across the advocates of those political initiatives have lastly discovered a right-wing viewers and will now reap the benefits of the chance to revive the “Greater Serbia” mission.

‘Someone in Washington must get up’

There is public concern over a scarcity of response by US and EU officers regarding Kosovo.

On Tuesday, 37 NGOs from Kosovo and Serbia – together with some from Serb-majority northern Kosovo – despatched a letter to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s international coverage chief, calling her to sentence the proposed ethnic division of Kosovo.

“Such developments would inevitably produce a chain reaction in other Balkan states and lead to numerous requests for changes in borders in the Balkans, which opens the door to new conflicts,” the letter learn.

Former Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic (R) and former Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (2nd R) met president of RS Milorad Dodik (2nd L) and prime minister of RS Zeljka Cvijanovic (L) to debate a referendum in 2016 in Belgrade [Kristina Maslarevic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Daniel Serwer, who served because the US particular envoy for the Federation entity and helped to barter the Dayton peace accords, defined to Al Jazeera that the US has modified its coverage in direction of the area and now not objects to such proposals because it usually would.

“This is a change from previous policy, which unequivocally supported Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as defined in its constitution and (not incidentally) drawn in its flag,” Serwer wrote on his web site.

“The US and EU working together have a superb track record in the Balkans. Local ownership has a truly terrible track record there, especially when it comes to issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity… Someone in Washington needs to wake up. Havoc impends.”

‘Disconcerting’ conferences

Dacic is not the one politician who has met with necessary figures within the US.

Also in late July, Zeljka Cvijanovic, prime minister of RS of Dodik’s SNSD social gathering, met members of Trump’s administration, former Trump marketing campaign officers equivalent to Jason Osborne, Mike Rubino, Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon, who lately introduced plans to arrange a basis in Europe referred to as The Movement aimed to spice up right-wing populists.

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Osborne and Rubino have lately registered with the US Justice Department to foyer for Dodik’s and Cvijanovic’s SNSD social gathering in elections in October. 

Osborne advised on-line journal Mother Jones that his work for the Bosnian Serbs thus far contains organising conferences for Cvijanovic with officers equivalent to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who chairs a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on “Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats” and has stoked ethnic pressure in Iran to push for an unbiased state for the ethnic Azeris.

Serwer, the previous US particular envoy, agrees that advocates of latest ethnic boundaries might have been emboldened since discovering an viewers with the Trump’s administration and associates together with rising right-wing populism.

“[US officials] used to say, ‘there’s no way we’re going to allow this'”, Serwer advised Al Jazeera.

“The ethnic nationalists getting a hearing at the Trump administration would never have gotten it in the previous administrations – Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush – none of them would have given these ideas the time of day,” Serwer stated.

Milorad Dodik (R) and Zeljka Cvijanovic (L) of Bosnia’s SNSD social gathering [Kristina Maslarevic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Eric Gordy, a professor at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European research, advised Al Jazeera that politicians within the area have discovered a channel that circumvents what had been a consensus shared by the US and EU for years.

“It seems that [they] have taken the lesson that has already been used by many other countries to make use of the fact that the experienced professionals have been sidelined and major moves can be forced by ignorant and unqualified people like Kushner, Bannon, and Trump himself,” Gordy stated.

Former political adviser Lewandowski additionally visited Serbia final April. He spoke at a gathering referred to as “America Today” associated to Trump’s marketing campaign, saying that US coverage was now extra open to constructing new relations and that Serbia ought to seize at that likelihood.

Political scientist Mujanovic stated latest conferences are “incredibly disconcerting”, and instructed the US is popping its again on its landmark assist for Bosnia’s sovereignty.

“Even the mere hint of a change in US policy towards Bosnia and the region could embolden extremist nationalist elites, eager to revisit certain political projects from the 1990s,” Mujanovic stated. 

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“Chief among these are Dodik, but also large segments of the Vucic administration in Belgrade. So even if outright secession remains unlikely, the conditions for as much are becoming more favorable due to the more broadly chaotic international climate.”

Reuf Bajrovic, Bosnia’s former minister of vitality and founding father of Bosnia’s Civic Alliance social gathering, says the proposals over Kosovo are designed to generate assist among the many worldwide group in recognising Kosovo, with the top purpose of retrieving part of Bosnia in return – thus reaching Dodik’s “final frame”.

“The goal is still a Greater Serbia. It’s been that way since 1999 [end of the Kosovo war] and that’s perhaps been the only constant political stance [of Serbia] towards Bosnia and towards Kosovo,” Bajrovic stated.

“Partitioning Kosovo is an idea which also has consequences on Bosnia. Creating Greater Serbia is a century-old dream of these kind of politics. In the minds of those who advocate this idea who still dominate political-social relations in Serbia, crossing the Drina river [which marks Serbia’s western border] is the equivalent of retrieving Constantinople.”


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