US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet who arrived on Monday for an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina has said he is here to send a clear message to political leaders. In an exclusive interview with N1, Chollet said that America's national interest is to see Bosnia that is sovereign, democratic and inclusive. Imposing sanctions for those seeking to undermine the country's stability and unity is an option, he said.
US has been a close ally and partner of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its peoples for 26 past years, and every administration since President Bill Clinton up until now believed “deeply in a positive future of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
Speaking about the ongoing crisis in the country, Chollet stressed there is a “great concern in Washington and throughout Europe about trajectory of Bosnia and Herzegovina” and that there are “the fears that conflict could return here.”
“We are every much determined to do what we can to avoid and give our best advice and counsel to the leaders of this country about what we think they should do to prevent that from happening. And beyond that, to try to build a better future for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
He noted that there are critical reforms concerning the election procedures and law as well as the rule of law to be conducted, adding that this is in the best interest of the country to achieve.
As for “divisive separatist rhetoric,” the US diplomat said this was “very concerning to the leadership in Washington, to the members of our Congress as well as to leaders throughout Europe.”
“So we are here to make clear that that is a concern to us, that that goes very much against what we believe is a true spirit of the Dayton.”
Asked if the US is ready to impose sanctions on those who undermine the Dayton Peace Agreement, he replied affirmatively.
He recalled that the Biden administration enhanced tools, creating a new set of sanctions that could be deployed against individuals who are seeking to undermine the stability and the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We are not enthusiastic about using those tools, that is not something we would like to resort to right away. Of course, a part of what I am doing here as a diplomat is to make a case and try to give our best advice to the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to make different decisions, and to try to put aside their personal ambitions or personal interest for the interests of all of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the common future we are all trying to achieve.”
Chollet also spoke about the status of the Office of the High Representative, the government formation in Bosnia's Bosniak-Croat shared entity Federation, and the impact of Russia, China and Turkey in Bosnia.
Watch the full interview in the video.