Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia says timing of his meeting with Dodik "awkward"


Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivan Del Vechio, was heavily criticised recently over his meeting with the Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik in Banja Luka during the celebration of the Republika Srpska Day earlier this week.

As part of the ceremony marking the holiday which the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS) celebrates but which had been declared unconstitutional by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, a former RS army general Slavko Lisica was decorated posthumously.

Lisica had been tried in absentia by a Croatian court and sentenced to 15 years in prison for war crimes, for ordering the shelling of civilian targets in the Croatian coastal city of Sibenik in 1991. After the war, Lisica never served his sentence and died in Belgrade in 2013. His posthumous decoration awarded on Wednesday by RS officials was handed to his son Nenad.

However, Del Vechio told N1 that he did not really attend the controversial ceremony.

“I did not attend the ceremonial inspection of the honour guards, nor the awarding of decorations. I would never think of going to that. I only had a meeting with Dodik, currently the chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency. The date chosen for our meeting, which had been arranged beforehand, was awkward,” Del Vechio told N1 on Friday.

Croatia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marija Pejcinovic-Buric, commented on his attendance in Banja Luka and called it a “wrong call.” Del Vechio has been recalled for consultations to Zagreb, she said on Thursday, adding that a decision regarding any further steps would be made. She added that his term, which started in 2013, had ended anyway.

Asked whether he would be relieved of his post, Del Vechio said he would not comment on that, only saying that he had “nothing to add to what (foreign) minister already said”.

On Thursday, Croatia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Tomo Medved, and Defence Minister, Damir Krsticevic, both slammed ambassador Del Vechio for attending the celebration in Banja Luka.

Attending such a ceremony constituted “inappropriate conduct, particularly considering the fact that a war criminal, convicted in Croatia of grave war crimes, was decorated on that occasion,” Medved told reporters in Zagreb on Thursday, with Minister Krsticevic saying that attending such an event was a “disgrace”.

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