The arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was welcomed by leaders around Europe, many of whom said that the capture of the war crimes suspect moved Serbia closer to its goal of European Union membership.
Leaders welcomed the arrest of Karadzic and said it moved Serbia closer to the EU
Reactions from around the continent came as Serbian authorities admitted that Karadzic, wanted for war crimes charges including genocide for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war, was located and arrested while security forces were looking for his former military commander Ratko Mladic.
Mladic, also indicted for war crimes, is the most-sought Bosnian Serb suspect still at large.
"Karadzic was found while we were tracking Mladic's helpers." Rasim Ljajic, Serbia's top official for cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, said in Belgrade. He did not elaborate.
Serbian authorities say they arrested Karadzic late on Monday around Belgrade, where he had lived under a false name and worked for a private ambulance company.
Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik welcomed Karadzic's arrest, saying the former leader's arrest in Belgrade proved that he was not in the Srpska Republic, the Bosnian Serb entity.
"All those who were claiming for years that Karadzic was here, pressing and punishing the Srpska Republic for not arresting him, could see now that he could not be arrested here as he was not here," Dodik said in Banja Luka.
He reiterated that all those indicted for war crimes before The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) should face justice.
Mixture of elation and disappointment in Balkans
The arrest dominated headlines in Bosnia
Mladen Bosic, president of the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) established by Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic himself some 18 years ago, expressed his disappointment with Karadzic's arrest, accusing the new Serbian government of apprehending the former SDS leader.
"It is obvious that this is the result or consequence of the establishment of new authorities in Serbia," Bosic said. "We are all surprised."
He also criticized the work of the ICTY, claiming the UN War Crimes Tribunal was not a court of justice, but rather a political institution.
Bosnian Muslim authorities in Sarajevo welcomed Karadzic's arrest, saying a new future for Bosnia-Herzegovina was now open. "This is at least some satisfaction for the families of the victims of the war," the chairman of Bosnia's tripartite state presidency Haris Silajdzic said in Sarajevo.
Although he had been skeptical about the prospects for Karadzic's arrest, Silajdzic said that his belief in justice has been restored.
His Croat colleague in the presidency, Zeljko Komsic, said: "This is a great day for Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Both Silajdzic and Komsic warned at the same time that justice would not be completely served until Mladic, Karadzic's closest associate, was also arrested.
The action "proves that justice reaches everyone," said Miroslav Lajcak, international administrator and EU special representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"I still cannot believe that Karadzic was arrested," said Hajra Catic, president of the Srebrenica Mothers' Association. "I keep asking myself: Could that be true? After all those horrors, so much evil in Srebrenica, it was the time for him to be put behind bars," she added.
European leaders were equally pleased that the hunt for Karadzic was over.
Germany lauds Serbian government's positive signal
Merkel and Steinmeier both welcomed Serbia's efforts
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the arrest, calling it "good news for the entire Balkans."
"This is an historic moment," she said in a statement distributed by her spokesman. "Victims can rest assured that grave human-rights breaches will not go unpunished." Germany has repeatedly pressed for Karadzic's prosecution for war crimes.
"Karadzic's arrest is good news for the entire Balkans," the chancellor's statement said. "It is a key step towards justice, peace and reconciliation in the region."
She said Serbia's President Boris Tadic had "emphasized the European vocation of Serbia through this courageous step."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the arrest marked a "milestone in relations between Serbia and the European Union."
Echoing Merkel's earlier remarks, he said the arrest was a signal from the Serbian government: "It is serious in its desire for stability, redistribution and reconciliation."
"The German government is happy and relieved that Radovan Karadzic has finally been arrested after so many years. This arrest marks a milestone in relations between Serbia and the European Union," Steinmeier said. "Through this arrest, the Serbian government is showing respect to all the people who suffered through Karadzic and the crimes attributed to him."
EU sees Serbia coming in from the cold
EU foreign policy commissioner Javier Solana, speaking on the periphery of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, said "today I want to congratulate the Serbian government. It is a good day for the Balkans."
Karadzic's military leader Ratko Mladic is still at large
He said he believed Belgrade was cooperating "fully" with the international war crimes tribunal. "I think they have proven that they will cooperate fully with the international tribunal," Solana said.
Full cooperation by Belgrade is a decisive precondition for the EU to ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia.
"I think we have to talk to the international prosecutor and I am certain that he is going to say there is full cooperation," Solana said, adding that it was important for Karadzic, as well as Ratko Mladic, to be put on trial. "It is important that Mladic and Karadzic will be in front of an international tribunal, having a fair trial," he said.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called Karadzic's arrest "a historic moment for international justice."
"(The arrest) proves that the new government of Serbia has the determination to turn the page, leave the nationalist past behind and move towards a European future," Rehn said. "I now very much look forward to discuss the next steps of Serbia's European orientation.
"In my view this should have an impact on the relations between the European Union and Serbia," he said.
NATO chief welcomes new chance of stability
The NATO chief says more criminals are still free
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer commended the Serbian authorities for "this important act of cooperation" with the UN war crimes tribunal.
"A prosperous and stable future for the Western Balkans can only be built on justice and reconciliation. Therefore, I encourage Serbia and the other countries in the region to continue their efforts to detain the remaining indicted war criminals still at large, including Ratko Mladic," the NATO secretary general said.
The British government hailed the arrest as "good news" that will open up a brighter future for Serbia in Europe.
"This arrest will help close the region's decades of conflict, and pave the way for a brighter, European future for Serbia and the region," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
Paddy Ashdown, the former EU High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, described the arrest as an "extremely important piece of justice for the world at large."
Karadzic had been involved in the "most terrible and black period of crime" since World War II, Ashdown said. "It will mean a major breakthrough for the Balkans region. It is a major credit to Serbia and at last brings the prospect of justice for Bosnia."
Nordic states highlight need for the search to continue
The Nordic ministers say Mladic and others must be caught
"This is very good news," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a statement released by the foreign ministry, lauding the new Serbian government for showing its will "to live up to its international and European commitments."
Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said "it is a positive step in the right direction but of course there is still a lot to be done. It is certainly a good step but there are still a few criminals that need to be caught."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, attending talks in Geneva aimed at reviving the World Trade Organization's Doha Round, also welcomed the news of the arrest.
"I expect that he continues the journey to The Hague so that he can stand trial for the acts he is charged with," Store told news agency NTB. "This has great importance for how Serbia will be regarded by the rest of the world and for all those who have suffered injustice," he added.
Hungary, Greece welcome new chance for Serbia
Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz hailed the arrest of Serbian war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic as a "clear signal" sent by Belgrade to the European Union.
"The leadership of the country with President Boris Tadic at the top is really determined to cooperate with the court of justice," Goncz told the Hungarian news agency MTI.
Serbian authorities had sent "a clear signal to the EU," she said, noting that a major precondition for closer ties with the European Union was for Serbia to hand over war crimes suspects such as Karadzic.
Greece also welcomed the Karadzic arrest and said Serbia was being relieved of its "burdens of the past" and promised Greek support for the Balkan country's future.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni in a statement said "Serbia is being freed from the burdens of a past that has been condemned outright.
"It can now look with optimism upon a future and its European perspective, of which Greece will continue to be a firm and ardent supporter," Bakoyianni added.