ZAGREB, March 14, 2019 – Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday said that an alleged espionage scandal, according to which Croatian intelligence agents and Croatian diplomats recruited radical Islamist groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to confirm claims by the authorities in Zagreb that thousands of extremists were hiding in BiH, was “nonsense and creative manipulation”.
“This is creative manipulation. SOA (Croatia’s intelligence agency) has already released a statement and entirely rejected those insinuations. That is nonsense that I wholly reject,” Plenković said in Neum, where he attended a meeting on changes to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution.
According to him, it is even bigger nonsense to claim that Croatian diplomats were involved in the alleged espionage scandal. “They are here to do their job and not to be involved in anything else. I reject both claims,” the prime minister said.
Plenković underscored that Croatia is combating terrorism and that it is cooperating with Bosnia and Herzegovina in that fight, considering it a partner. “Our entire cooperation with bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina that deal with this issue, notably anti-terrorist activities and information exchange, is regular and permanent. As far as I know, our agency requested the Bosnia and Herzegovina side to give its opinion on these allegations so that we get a broader picture,” Plenković said.
Leader of the HDZ BH party Dragan Čović also commented on the affair, which allegedly involves a senior official of that party, Mijo Krešić, the deputy of Bosnia’s Security Minister Dragan Mektić, who has publicly confirmed the allegations. Čović described the affair as activities launched by para-structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina and announced an investigation. “This is an insult to reason, just as the interpretation of events in parliament regarding the condemnation of the Chetnik gathering in Višegrad is insulting,” Čović said. He added that numerous events in fact show that numerous illegal structures exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We have to be concerned about the existence of such groups, whether the one in Višegrad or elsewhere, but also about persons infiltrated in Bosnian institutions who are making up such things. We want those responsible to be called out but we are also aware that they won’t be,” Čović said.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s office said on Thursday it had no intention of commenting on the “petty political fabrications” by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security minister, while the Croatian Foreign Ministry said those claims were aimed at undermining the two countries’ successful cooperation.
Grabar-Kitarović’s office said it “has no intention at all of commenting on these ill-intentioned, entirely unfounded and petty political fabrications.”
The Foreign Ministry said that “the entirely unfounded and extremely tendentious claims are evidently aimed at compromising the successful cooperation between the two states in the fight against terrorism and at negatively impacting the further development of overall relations between Croatia and BiH as two neighbourly and friendly states.”
Croatia, as a member of the UN, EU, NATO and the Council of Europe, remains fully committed to the prevention of terrorism, in which it will continue to cooperate with its neighbours and international partners, the ministry added.
Croatia’s Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) on Thursday dismissed as “untrue and malicious” the claims by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Security Minister Dragan Mektić that SOA had tried to recruit members of the radical Islamic Salafi movement to transfer weapons and explosives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that Croatia was thus accused of aiding and abetting terrorism.
“The fight against terrorism is SOA’s priority. We carry out all our anti-terrorism tasks professionally and responsibly with the aim of protecting Croatia, our EU and NATO allies and the whole of Europe,” SOA said in a statement emailed to Hina.
“We believe that any political instrumentalisation of the fight against terrorism and of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s intelligence community poses a serious risk to the security of Croatia, the EU, NATO and in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina itself,” SOA said.
SOA has formally asked Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA) to declare its position on these false allegations, adding that it will inform its international partners of the matter.
More news about the relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.