By Maja Zuvela
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia and Serbia have agreed to make a fresh start in their relationship, soured over the past few years, and reassure investors concerned about regional stability, the Bosnian presidency chairman said on Sunday.
â€œWe have to change the image of the Western Balkan region,â€ Haris Silajdzic said on his return from an Istanbul summit between the presidents of the two former Yugoslav republics and their host, Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Saturday.
Relations between Bosnia and Serbia have worsened since 2006, mainly because of Serbiaâ€™s arrest and trial of a Bosnian official for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 war, and other similar arrest warrants.
As part of its policy to heal relations between countries in the region, Turkey has intensified efforts to improve ties between the two Balkan neighbors.
While the three foreign ministers have met several times over the past six months, the Istanbul summit brought together their presidents for the first time.
â€œWe have had different opinions about some issues but the meeting with Serbiaâ€™s President Boris Tadic was constructive… I believe it will yield good results,â€ said Silajdzic.
â€œBadly needed investments will come only if there is security and stability.â€
Bosnia and Serbia signed a declaration pledging to settle the dispute over unresolved borders, property and debt, and discuss a joint approach toward international markets at a planned meeting in Belgrade.
Until now, Silajdzic, a Muslim member of Bosniaâ€™s tripartite rotating presidency, has ignored invitations to visit Belgrade.
He said the Serbian parliamentâ€™s March resolution, apologizing for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which Bosnian Serb forces killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys, has paved the way for such a visit.
â€œI am ready to go there now,â€ Silajdzic said, adding that the Serbian pro-Western president has also promised to attend the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, seen as Europeâ€™s worst atrocity since World War Two.
Tadic had said pre-occupation with war topics was counter-productive for the two countries which both aspired to join the European Union.
Bosniaâ€™s presidency Serb member Nebojsa Radmanovic reacted angrily to Silajdzicâ€™s meeting with Tadic, saying he did not have the consent of the other two presidency members to sign the Istanbul declaration and that he may dispute it.
â€œThat is not in line with the constitution,â€ Radmanovic told reporters in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serb Republic which, with the Muslim-Croat federation, makes up Bosnia. Silajdzic said he had informed the presidency about his plans.
Endless ethnic and political quarrels in the past three years have led Bosnia to a state of permanent political crisis, stalling any hope of joining the EU and NATO.
(Additional reporting by Olja Stanic in Banja Luka; Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Louise Ireland)