The sanctions the US put on Bosnian Serb politician Nikola Spiric have nothing to do with the political situation in Bosnia but are strictly tied to corruption, US Ambassador in Bosnia, Maureen Cormack, said on Wednesday.
The US State Department said earlier this month that it has banned the Bosnian Serb lawmaker and members of his immediate family from entering the US over his alleged “involvement in significant corruption.”
Spiric is a top official of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), the party in power in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity, Republika Srpska (RS).
SNSD leader and RS President Milorad Dodik is also under US sanctions, but for defying Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, and with that, breaching the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia.
The sanctions against Spiric came due to concern over corruption in Bosnia, something the US Government had been discussing months before, Cormack said.
But SNSD officials said that the sanctions were aimed at weakening the SNSD before the October 7 general election.
“Handing down such a decision, from the timely perspective, has nothing to do with the political situation and issues here,” Cormack said.
“In our law on sanctions which concern the Western Balkans, such as was the case with Milorad Dodik, we act against all those who work against the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its territorial integrity and its sovereignty,” she explained.
Cormack said that, although she does not meet with Dodik anymore, the US has a good relationship with the RS and its citizens.
“Nearly half of the aid from our funds (for Bosnia) are invested in the RS, through the USAID and grant programmes for farmers, small employers and businesses,” she said.
She also commented on the upcoming visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Bosnia, saying that Bosnia has, as a sovereign country, a right to host political leaders of any country.
“The US and Russia work together on those issues and values they share across the world. When our values and interests differ, then the US protects its own interests and values,” she said.
“No foreign power should get involved, nor have an influence in the election process,” she added.