Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday called on the authorities of Republika Srpska (RS), the Bosnian Serb entity, to defuse tensions and work on keeping the peace.
"We need peace and stability more than ever. Motorways are not built for tanks," he said in Prnjavor, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), where he came for the opening of a motorway from Doboj to Banja Luka, which coincides with campaigning for local elections in BiH.
About 1,000 people attended and once again Bosnian state insignia were not on display. As usual during Vucic's visits to RS, only the Serbian anthem was struck up.
"It's up to me, never interfering or trying to play the older brother, to ask everyone to defuse tensions and ensure peace and stability," he told reporters, adding that Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks needed peace equally and that everyone in the region "counting soldiers" and thinking about new conflicts was wrong.
Vucic would not comment on the RS authorities' intention to go ahead with a contentious referendum on September 25 at which the entity's citizens would say if a BiH Constitutional Court decision, proclaiming January 9 an unconstitutional RS holiday, would be complied with. He said the referendum had been discussed and that the positions of Serbia and RS on the matter differed.
Speaking at the motorway inauguration, Vucic said Serbs "will always be ready to defend their homes but they must also be ready to defend others from Serbs themselves." "I hope we will choose the right path. We Serbs always lacked wisdom," he said, adding that only in peace and on the basis of wise decisions could Serbs live with Bosniaks and Croats for the next 100 years.
RS President Milorad Dodik said that continuing to connect the entity with Serbia was a strategic goal. "Our goal is not hidden... It brings us to Serbia and our goal is connecting with Serbia."
The Doboj-Banja Luka motorway is called January 9. It is 36.5 km long, cost EUR 160 million and was paid with a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development loan.