Berlin says it will work for EUFOR Bosnia extension amid Russia concerns

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EUFOR (European Union Force) army members participate in military exercise at Kalinovik training ground in Kalinovik, Bosnia and Herzegovina March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

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SARAJEVO, May 4 (Reuters) - Germany will work for an extension of the EU's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as concerns mount about instability spilling over from the Ukraine war, but has not yet decided whether to provide troops, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said.

"(The EU mission) EUFOR is an important signal for the stabilization of the country," she told reporters after meeting her Bosnian counterpart Sifet Podzic in Sarajevo on Wednesday. "German will do its part for this work to continue".

There is, however, no decision yet on whether Berlin will, for the first time in 10 years, provide troops for EUFOR, Lambrecht added.

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NATO and senior EU officials have warned that instability from the war in Ukraine could spread to the Western Balkans.

Bosnia lies hundreds of miles from the fighting, but faces an increasingly assertive Bosnian Serb separatist movement that analysts say has at least tacit support from Moscow.

Only days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU decided to almost double the size of its EUFOR force to 1,100 troops from 600 troops by sending in reserves to stave off potential instability.

EUFOR's current mandate runs out in November, and it is up to the U.N. Security Council to decide on an extension for another year. But concerns are growing that Moscow might use its veto to thwart an agreement.

"We must not allow the peace to be jeopardized that has prevailed in Bosnia for 25 years now," Podzic warned.

EUFOR replaced NATO peace-keeping troops in Bosnia in 2004.

The European troops are meant to stabilize the country after Bosnia's Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks waged a war for territory in the 1990s, in which 100,000 died.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Daria Sito-Sucic, Editing by William Maclean

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