New peace envoy gets hostile reception from Bosnian Serb leaders

European Union High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt speaks during the handover ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

SARAJEVO, Aug 2 (Reuters) - German politician Christian Schmidt took up the post of Bosnia's international peace overseer on Monday after a hostile reception by Bosnian Serb leaders who want the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to be scrapped.

Schmidt, a former government minister, replaced Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko after 12 years as the international High Representative in Bosnia, whose office oversees the 1995 Dayton peace agreement.

"It's an honour for me to take this responsibility and serve the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina," Schmidt said during the official takeover ceremony in the capital of Sarajevo.

But Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, said Schmidt was not welcome.

"You were not chosen as the High Representative. The Serb Republic ... will not respect anything you do," he said.

The OHR was set up as part of the U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords that ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war to supervise the reconstruction of a country torn apart by conflict in which 100,000 died.

Schmidt's approval in late May by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, a body gathering representatives of major world organisations and governments, was rejected by Bosnian Serbs and their ally Russia. read more

Late in July, Russia and China also failed to get the U.N. Security Council to strip some OHR powers and shut it down. read more

The Bosnian Serbs have long requested the shutdown of the OHR.

Last week, the parliament of Bosnia's Serb-dominated Serb Republic rejected making the denial of the Srebrenica genocide a crime, threatening the dissolution of Bosnia and passing its own decrees instead. read more

Serb nationalists deny that genocide occurred in 1995 at the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica, when about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, despite such rulings by two international courts.

International envoys, whose powers stem from the Dayton peace treaty, can impose laws and fire officials.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Nick Macfie

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