EU warns Serbia close links in peril over Mladic

27th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 February 2006, BRUSSELS - The European Union on Monday warned Serbia to hand over fugitive war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic to the international war crimes tribunal or face "disruption" in cooperation with the 25-nation bloc.

27 February 2006

BRUSSELS - The European Union on Monday warned Serbia to hand over fugitive war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic to the international war crimes tribunal or face "disruption" in cooperation with the 25-nation bloc.

A statement issued by EU foreign ministers in Brussels said Serbia must ensure full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) by taking "decisive action to ensure that all remaining fugitive indictees, notably Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are finally brought to justice without delay."

Ministers said they had noted with concern recent comments by ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte about Serbia and Montenegro's unsatisfactory cooperation with ICTY.

"Full cooperation with the ICTY must be achieved to ensure that the stabilisation and association agreement negotiations are not disrupted," the statement warned.

EU governments would remain in close contact with del Ponte over the issue, it added.

Officials said the reference to a "disruption" of talks rather than full-scale suspension was designed to give Serbia more time to cooperate with The Hague.

But they warned that the bloc was running out of patience with Belgrade.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters the EU was determined to "suspend" negotiations on the stabilisation pact which opened with Belgrade last October if Serbia continued to cold- shoulder The Hague war crimes court.

Steinmeier said the EU was not in the business of issuing Serbia with ultimatums.

But the EU text "includes the possibility of suspending talks with Serbia," he said.

EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana added that Serbia's cooperation with the war crimes court in The Hague is "decisive."

Voicing similar sentiments, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Serbia could not "expect the full cooperation from the EU" unless it handed war crimes suspects to The Hague tribunal.

The EU was taking a step-by-step approach to the issue, Straw said, adding that Monday's decision to warn of a "disruption" of talks could be followed up by tougher measures if Belgrade refused to respond.

"If (authorities in) Serbia continue to fail to cooperate...they risk an end, a total suspension of the talks," Straw underlined.

Ministers made their comments as EU enlargement chief Olli Rehn warned that Serbia's cooperation with the court had been "deteriorating."

Representatives from the EU and Serbia and Montenegro are scheduled to hold a second round of high-level talks in Belgrade on April 5.

The meeting could be called off if Mladic is not delivered to The Hague by that date, Straw said.

Rehn added that the April deadline meant that Serbia still had a few weeks to achieve full cooperation with the war crimes court.

The British Foreign Secretary said the EU must treat Serbia no differently from the tough line it had taken on demanding that Croatia track down and deliver former General Ante Gotovina to The Hague court.

EU governments put plans for starting membership talks with Croatia on ice last March pending action against Gotovina.

But negotiations were opened in October after del Ponte said Zagreb had stepped up cooperation with the court, allowing the EU to open formal entry negotiations with Zagreb last October. Gotovina was delivered to The Hague in December.

Mladic, who has been a fugitive since 1995, has been charged with genocide and other crimes related to the Bosnian war. Rumours that he was on the point of being arrested last week proved a false alarm.

Another leading Serbian war crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic is also on the run.

Negotiations on an EU stabilisation and association pact are seen as a first step in the bloc's gradual embrace of countries in the western Balkans.


Subject: German news

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