UK's Peach: Some political issues in the region could become security issues

NEWS 19.03.2022 15:25
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Source: Armend NIMANI / AFP

The Western Balkans region has not been put under a direct threat of war yet but some political issues in the region could become security issues unless it is avoided, UK Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Sir Stuart Peach said addressing a panel discussion 'Britain and the Western Balkans in the light of the war in Ukraine' in Zagreb on Friday.

He said that the region itself has gone through difficult times, through a war but also through years of progress which cannot be put at risk.

Speaking of the proportions of humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Peach said that this is a crisis that we have not seen since the wars of the 1990s.

According to him, the situation is new and some old problems need to be solved in a new way.

As for the region, he noted that there are many bilateral disputes but that there is a room for normalisation, mentioning the example od the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue which is mediated by the EU and supported by the UK Government.

He also recalled that his appointment came prior to the start of the war in Ukraine. Peach went on saying that the UK has strong embassies and excellent ambassadors and teams as well as the presence in the military and UN missions in the region.

Their most important message is that “we care,” the envoy said, adding that the goal is to give a new hope to young generations and help as an international actor and friend of the region solve the longstanding problems.

After the took over the duty, Peach visited all six countries in the region where he met with the countries’ senior officials but also the representatives of the opposition because, he said, it is necessary to hear all the voices.

Most of the problems in the region are not new, some of them date back to the 1990s and beyond, he stressed, adding that to solve them, a new energy and fresh look are needed.

He stressed that the UK continues supporting democratic values, the rule of law, and human rights in the political evolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The main ambition is to help the countries in the region achieve their goals concerning the Euro-Atlantic integration, he added.

Commenting on the recent statement by Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who said that the country's potential membership in NATO would cause Russia's reaction, he said it was a very odd statement.

“It is a threat, not diplomacy, from my experience,” he said.

Peach also warned of the influence that Russia is trying to establish in the region through media ownership and energy.

Asked to rank the problems in the Western Balkans that he earlier talked about, he replied that it would be wrong of him and inappropriate to do so, but he said that however difficult and long-standing those problems were, there is a way to find a room for conversation, because “”talking is better than war.”

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