SARAJEVO - Bosnia's rival Serb, Croat and Bosniak leaders agreed on Monday to form a central government 10 months after a general election, reaching a compromise about Bosnia's integration into NATO which had been a key stumbling block.
The heads of the country's three largest ethnic parties signed an agreement on the main principles for the government formation at a meeting facilitated by the European Union mission in Bosnia.
"This agreement provides the conditions for the formation of the central cabinet ... within the next 30 days," Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's three-man inter-ethnic presidency who heads the Bosnian Serb ruling SNSD party, told a news conference.
"I think this is an important moment which allows us to move forward," said Dodik.
But he also warned that unless the agreement has been implemented within agreed deadline, "that will mean that Bosnia is in a deep constitutional and political crisis and that its sovereignty will come into question."
Bosnia's complex government structure, based on ethnic quotas, allows each group to block key decisions.
The formation of the central cabinet has been blocked by the Bosniak and Croat members of the presidency who had insisted that a Serb prime minister-designate, who will come from the SNSD, should plead to continue Bosnia's path towards NATO integration.
The SNSD has, in turn, blocked the work of the national parliament.
The Bosnian Serbs do not support Bosnia's membership in NATO which bombed their positions, as well as their ally Serbia, during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
But under the agreement, the leaders confirmed they will "promote relations with NATO without prejudicing a future decision about the membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
"Unless this document as agreed and signed has been implemented in the next 30 days, the SNSD will block the work of all institutions and nobody will be able to stop that, neither European or any other international institutions," Dodik said.
Dodik, who has preferred ties with Russia to those with the EU and NATO, has repeatedly threatened with the secession of the Orthodox Serb-dominated autonomous Serb Republic from Bosnia. Bosnia also comprises the Federation dominated by Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.