Press conference friction: Bakir "clarifies," Vucic "adds"

After his talks with the three leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) that lasted just over an hour, President Aleksandar Vucic said the meeting was "not easy."

Source: B92
Izetbegovic and Vucic are seen earlier in the day on Wednesday in Belgrade (Tanjug)
Izetbegovic and Vucic are seen earlier in the day on Wednesday in Belgrade (Tanjug)

According to Vucic, who spoke during a joint news conference in Belgrade on Wednesday, the first topic of discussion was the construction of the Sarajevo-Belgrade highway, and there Serbia presented "a fair stance."

"We showed what we've done on Corridor 11 so far, and how and what we are doing to bring Belgrade closer to Sarajevo," Vucic said.

When it comes to the second issue - determining some disputed parts of the border, Vucic said that he and his interlocutors today "concurred based on an earlier agreement from Sarajevo" - and that Serbia proposed a non-paper according to which it would have hydro-power plants Zvornik and Bajina Basta wholly in its territory.

Representatives of the BiH Presidency had a different proposal in this regard, in view of the status of these power plants, but this issue will be further discussed, he said.

A "meter-for-meter" exchange of territory near Priboj and Rudo was also proposed during the meeting, Vucic revealed.

The third issue, he said, was that of the position of the BiH Presidency on Kosovo.

There was recently a escalation of the rhetoric between Serbia and BiH, following the Presidency's Bosniak (Muslim) member, Bakir Izetbegovic, saying that BiH "should have already recognized Kosovo." After the strong reactions from Serbia, Izetbegovic said that his statement had been misinterpreted.

Although the Croat representative in the Presidency and its current chair Dragan Covic was speaking on behalf of the tripartite body, at the end of the news conference Izetbegovic interjected to say that he "must clarify something."

He was referred to the message sent by Vucic and Covic that on certain issues, such as Kosovo, Sarajevo would not change its position unless Belgrade did so.

Vucic told reporters that he "received such support" during the meeting, while Covic said that "BiH would be adapting to Belgrade's positions regarding the internal affairs of Serbia."

"Bosnia-Herzegovina's international policy will be led by these three men (members of the BiH Presidency), and it will be led in Sarajevo," said Izetbegovic, and added:

"Of course, we will also take into account the views of the neighboring countries, because we live with Serbia and with Croatia, as well as with the EU, where we have assumed obligations in the process of integration. But my position is that the foreign policy is conducted in Bosnia-Herzegovina and I have asked Covic to present that as his position, not as the position of the Presidency."

After this, a smiling Vucic announced that he "must add something."

"Well, this is what it's all like. I quoted what I got during the official talks - but this is what it's like, both about Kosovo and about the border," Vucic said.

A few minutes prior to this, the atmosphere was much friendlier, with Covic "thanking Aca (nickname for Aleksandar)" on his position regarding the model of solving the border issue, and remarking that, "as always, it is somewhat more difficult to reach a common stance in Sarajevo."

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