Bosnians Challenge FM on Balkan Jihad Statement

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Bosnia's foreign minister called his Israeli counterpart last night to personally protest Avigdor Lieberman's statement on Tuesday that the global jihad movement has made inroads into the Balkans, particularly the Muslim-majority countries of Bosnia and Albania.

Lieberman's remark was widely reported in several Balkan countries, including Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia, and by Wednesday, Balkan embassies in Israel had started calling the Foreign Ministry to ask on what information Lieberman had based this assertion.

Then, yesterday, Bosnian Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj - who is Jewish - called Lieberman personally to protest, saying the minister's remark "damaged Bosnia's reputation."

He added that his own country's intelligence service believes there are no global jihad cells or training camps in Bosnia, and if Lieberman has evidence to the contrary, he would like to know about it.

Lieberman's original assertion was contained in a press statement that his ministry issued on Tuesday following a meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

"Current information clearly shows that the Balkan region is the next destination of the global Jihad, which aims to establish an infrastructure and recruit activists," the statement said. One such indication, it added, is that Muslim charities that previously "transferred money to Africa and South America for this purpose" are now sending money to Bosnia and Albania.

Since taking office last spring, Lieberman has been seen as working hard to improve ties with the Balkan states, and has visited three of them - Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.

The Foreign Ministry's view is that all the Balkan states, which either already belong to the European Union or are likely candidates to join, constitute potential Israeli allies within the EU. Yet his remarks on Tuesday appear to have increased tensions with Bosnia.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials stressed that Lieberman's assertion was based on intelligence information, not mere press reports.

"We've received requests for clarifications, and that's natural," said one official. "Our goal is to share the information we have with everyone."

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