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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Croats, Moslems Reach Mostar Deal

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Bosnian Croats and Moslems signed an agreement Tuesday on jointly governing Mostar, averting permanent division of the city and putting the shaky peace process back on track.

"We have reached agreement, which was signed by both parties," said Dragan Gasic, a spokesman for the European Union, which has been administering the southwestern city.

Mijo Brajkovic, mayor of Croat-ruled west Mostar, told reporters the Moslems had accepted Croat terms that a still-to-be-formed constitutional court rule on the validity of recent Mostar elections.

But a copy of the agreement given reporters appeared to set a time frame for a ruling. It stipulated that after an initial city council session appoints a mayor and a deputy, the court reach a decision within the maximum 60 days normally allowed between council sessions.

Brajkovic said the first joint council session would be held around Aug. 15.

Croats, Moslems and EU officials mediating the agreement expressed relief that it had been possible to bridge differences.

Sir Martin Garrod, the European Union's negotiator, said the agreement opened the way for a continued EU presence in the city.

"Between us, we can go forward working towards making Mostar the city we would all wish it to be," he told reporters.

Brajkovic said the agreement represented the "final chapter" of Croat-Moslem tensions in Mostar left in the wake of their war within the greater Bosnian war against the Serbs.

The mayor of Moslem east Mostar, Safet Orucevic, said the agreement meant that Mostar could be shared between the two ethnic groups.

"We want to create a unified administration, and these people have to find a common solution for Mostar and its people," he said.

Still, long-term prospects for Mostar -- and for Bosnia as a whole -- remained uncertain.

The two sides agreed to come to terms in Mostar only after the United States and the European Union put them under intense pressure, in a continuation of a pattern of Serb, Croat and Moslem cooperation only under duress.

Such reluctance to bury past enmities left by 3 1/2 years of warfare has dampened hopes that peace will last much beyond the departure of NATO-led troops enforcing the Dayton accords.

The European Union -- which has administered Mostar since 1994 -- had threatened to withdraw unless Mostar's Moslem and Croat leaders agreed to abide by the results of the elections and come to terms on how to share power.

International negotiators said the Croats were to blame for the impasse. They had boycotted city council meetings because of election irregularities, although the EU had certified the elections as valid.

The city's latest divisions sprang from June 30 elections narrowly won by a Moslem-led coalition. Had agreement eluded the two sides because of the Croat boycott, the precedent could have been set for others not to honor results of all-Bosnian elections in September.

The European Union had originally threatened to leave by midnight Saturday unless there was agreement. But with so much at stake, talks continued Sunday and Monday. A late-night session ended at around 4 a.m. local time after five hours, and the two sides met again at 11 a.m. Tuesday.