"RS to go to referendum unless Dayton is respected"

BANJA LUKA -- RS President Milorad Dodik has said after returning from an official visit to Moscow that Russia continually expresses its commitment to the Dayton Agreement.

(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)

The leader of the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina pointed out that Russia does so through its activities in the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the UN Security Council.

"We had the opportunity to thank President Vladimir Putin for the continued support that Russia provides also through the UN Security Council and the Peace Implementation Council, which is of great importance for the Serb Republic (RS)," said Dodik.

He added that the demand to hold an independence referendum in the RS was legitimate, and that this would happen unless the original Dayton Accords is respected - and if the transfer of entity powers to the state level continued.

Speaking about comparisons between the referendum in Scotland and a possible referendum on independence in the RS, Dodik said that the entity "respects the written Dayton."

"We want to go back to the original Dayton Accords and what it says, and that means a return of the powers taken from us," said Dodik.

The RS does not dispute the original jurisdiction of Bosnia as defined by the Dayton Agreement, but challenges, he said, "the violence of high representatives, their arrogance, the grabbing of RS powers and their transfer to Sarajevo."

Dodik warned that the RS will defend its status and build it further, noting that he never "located time-wise" the possible referendum.

"We want dialogue, and if there is no dialogue, the RS will legitimize its right to a referendum in order to decide on its status," said Dodik.

He added that Russia's support is important primarily because high international representatives in Bosnia in their reports to the Security Council "always presented lies about the Serb Republic."

"We have received confirmation that it will in future meetings as well the Russian Federation will respect the information that comes from the RS," noted Dodik.

He further stated that the Russian president gave his absolute support to all projects and cooperation between the entity and the Russian Federation.

"The government of the Russian Federation envisaged in the revised budget a loan to be granted to the RS, and we will close that loan through a bank, and will in that way avoid any unpleasantness because of the parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina," Dodik said.

According to him, it is a favorable arrangement for the RS that would secure its long-term budget stability.

Dodik clarified that the loan will be worth between EUR 500 and 700 million, adding that it will stabilize the budget and public funds and prevent any problems in the payment of salaries and pensions.

Stating that he sought a low interest rate (two to three percent), a grace period of one to two years, and repayment of the loan within 10 to 15 years, the RS president said that the Russian side has "neither rejected nor confirmed these conditions."

"It remains for these terms to be concluded with the bank, which will be given the right to negotiate with us on this issue," said Dodik.

"The RS loan agreement with Russia does not seek to jeopardize the arrangements we have with the IMF, instead we want to avoid any conditioning," he added.

RS officials also reiterated that they agreed on "a small" loan worth EUR 75 million with the VTB Bank.

RS Prime Minister Željka Cvijanović, who accompanied Dodik in Moscow this week, said that one of the topics was the commitment to realize the construction of the South Stream through the RS, "regardless of the circumstances."

"We cannot influence international circumstances, but it has been confirmed that the Serb Republic will not give up on South Stream. The second project is the gasification before South Stream is built," said Cvijanović.

She added that an agreement was signed with Gazprom which will enable the RS to receive gas supplies without intermediaries.

Cvijanović denied that the trip to Moscow was meant to raise the rating of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) before the October election, stating that they traveled to Russia as "state officials of the RS" and spoke with the Russian president "exclusively about state issues."