Bosnia and Herzegovina is at risk of a return to bloodshed amid a "depressing dynamic back towards dissolution", former high representative to the country Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon has warned.
His comments follow the parliament of Bosnia's Serb-dominated region, the Republic of Srpska, last month calling for a referendum questioning the legality of decisions made by the present high representative.
Lord Ashdown told peers at question time: "The plans by the president of the Republic of Srpska, Milorad Dodik, to hold a referendum is clearly against the provisions of the Dayton agreement and confirm the country's depressing dynamic back towards dissolution.
"Given the country would be very unlikely to go through dissolution without returning to bloodshed, will the Government give us their assurance that they would be prepared to use every means possible to protect the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina and to act against those who would seek to put it at jeopardy?"
Foreign Office minister Lord Howell of Guildford replied: "Will I give the assurance? Yes, I certainly will. We will if necessary argue for the European Union to deploy fully all incentives and deterrents at its disposal and we will use all pressures available to us to ensure that what looks like a blatant and very clear attempt to contravene the Dayton agreement by the Republic of Srpska and by its leader are being put forward.
"These are developments which we are determined to see resisted. We don't want to see the territorial integrity of the structure of the Bosnian state undermined as it would be if these kind of proposals are pursued."