Europe

Serbia's leaders refuse to influence Bosnian Serbs

  • Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, right, leaves the Serbian presidency building after a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Bosnian Serb leaders in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Serbia says it will not try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to cancel a disputed referendum that has challenged the international community in Bosnia and fueled ethnic tensions more than twenty years after the 1992-95 war. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, right, leaves the Serbian presidency building after a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Bosnian Serb leaders in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Serbia says it will not try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to cancel a disputed referendum that has challenged the international community in Bosnia and fueled ethnic tensions more than twenty years after the 1992-95 war. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, third from left, speaks during a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, third from right, and Bosnian Serb leaders: Prime Minister of Republika Srpska Zeljka Cvijanovic, left, President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, second from left, Serb Democratic Party leader Mladen Bosnic, right, and member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, second from right, in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Serbia says it will not try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to cancel a disputed referendum that has challenged the international community in Bosnia and fueled ethnic tensions more than twenty years after the 1992-95 war. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, third from left, speaks during a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, third from right, and Bosnian Serb leaders: Prime Minister of Republika Srpska Zeljka Cvijanovic, left, President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, second from left, Serb Democratic Party leader Mladen Bosnic, right, and member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, second from right, in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Serbia says it will not try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to cancel a disputed referendum that has challenged the international community in Bosnia and fueled ethnic tensions more than twenty years after the 1992-95 war. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Serbia says it will not try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to cancel a disputed referendum that has challenged the international community in Bosnia and fueled ethnic tensions more than 20 years after the 1992-95 war.

President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Thursday after meeting Bosnian Serb leaders in Belgrade that they do not support the controversial vote, but will still stand by the Serbs in Bosnia.

The Sept. 25 referendum asks residents of Bosnia's Republika Srpska whether they agree the annual day of the Serb mini-state should remain Jan. 9. However, many believe it in fact is a test for a more serious one in 2018 — on independence from Bosnia.

The referendum also defies Bosnia's top court, dealing a blow to Bosnia's weak central institutions.