UN council headed for showdown over Srebrenica
The UN Security Council was headed for a showdown Tuesday over a draft resolution that would formally recognize the Srebrenica massacre as genocide, after Russia threatened to use its veto.
As Bosnia prepares for somber national commemorations of the 20th anniversary on Saturday, the 15-member council was to vote on a text that condemns the killing of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
But the council meeting was delayed after the United States and Russia held urgent talks on the measure put forward by Britain, which would be the first UN text to formally recognize the atrocities as an act of genocide.
Bosnian Serb leaders had called on Russia to use its veto power to block the resolution, arguing that it was "anti-Serb" because it focused mainly on the killings of the Muslim men and boys.
Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Petr Iliichev described the measure as "divisive" and focused on just "one part of the conflict."
Diplomats said Russia had told council members on Tuesday that it planned to use its veto, and the last-minute talks were called to try to save the measure.
The disagreement revived divisions from the Balkan wars when Russia sided with ethnic Serbs and Serbia, who are fellow Slavs, while western countries supported Bosnian Muslims and Croatia.
The draft resolution has kicked up a storm in the Balkans where Bosnian Serb leaders have refused to recognize the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has accused Britain of trying to "register at the UN, on the basis of false declarations and reports, that a genocide was committed against Muslims."
- Dispute over 'genocide' -
Taking aim at what it terms genocide denial, the draft resolution stresses that "acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation."
"Genocide is a crime, and those who committed it are criminals who should be punished as such," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft wrote in a letter to Mladen Ivanic, the Serb chairman of the Bosnian presidency.
"To say so is not 'anti-Serbian', as some have alleged."
Russia had floated its own draft, which Iliichev said was "more reconciling," but the text made no mention of the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide and it was not put forward for a vote.
Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic overran the UN-protected safe haven of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 in what was to become one of the darkest chapters of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Mladic's troops brushed aside the lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers and loaded thousands of Muslim men and boys onto trucks before executing them in a nearby forest and burying them in mass graves.
The international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have both ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica was a genocide.
It was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
The draft resolution welcomes ongoing investigations of the crime and urges UN member states to develop education programs to draw the lessons of genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
It calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen genocide prevention efforts at the United Nations.
© 2015 AFP