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War Grievances Force Delay of Vucic’s Croatia Trip

Belgrade, Zagreb accuse each other of erecting statues to war criminals in latest finger-pointing episode.

6 October 2017

Serbia and Croatia agreed yesterday to indefinitely postpone a visit by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic amid rising diplomatic tensions.

 

The lack of “mutual trust” forced the postponement of the visit, originally planned for November or December, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (pictured) said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

 

The latest development in the two countries’ running argument over the other’s role in the wars of the 1990s and the 1940s came last week, when a monument to Yugoslav army officer Milan Tepic was unveiled in Belgrade.

 

During fighting in 1991, Tepic blew himself up rather than surrender to Croatian forces, killing a fellow Yugoslav soldier and 11 Croatian troops in the process.

 

In a protest note, the Croatian Foreign Ministry said with the statue, Serbia showed it is “still not ready to confront the past and its role in the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.”

 

Serbian diplomats returned fire, saying the comments were “not only totally unfounded and baseless from the legal and historical point of view, but also highly hypocritical,” as Croatia itself has erected monuments to those Serbia considers terrorists, B92 reported.

 

The reference was to a monument to Miro Baresic, a Croat who was convicted of assassinating Yugoslavia’s ambassador to Sweden in 1971 and who died fighting Serb forces 20 years later.

 

Belgrade’s note also referred to the erection of a plaque with a salutation used by soldiers of Croatia’s World War II fascist Ustasha regime at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

 

Responding to Croatia’s objections to the Tepic monument, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Radio Television of Serbia, “It is clear that Croatian officials have an incurable disease, and that is their anti-Serb hysteria.”

 

Not letting the quarrel drop, the Croatian Foreign Ministry called Dacic’s bet with a note decrying his “completely inappropriate, unusual in terms of international communication and offensive statements.”

 

Striking a more conciliatory tone, Grabar-Kitarovic yesterday said, “Relations between the two countries don’t have to be friendly, but they must cooperate for their own future and the stability of southeastern Europe.”

 

 

  • Croatia was not alone in condemning Serbia for the Tepic monument. In Bosnia, the news website Prometej wrote that Serbia “now has what not even Iraq or Afghanistan have – a monument to a suicide bomber,” reported Balkan Insight.

 

  • On 4 September the Serbian Foreign Ministry issued a statement of protest regarding incidents in Zagreb at a meeting of the nationalist Croatian Party of Rights. Supporters reportedly called out pro-Ustasha and anti-Serb political slogans.

 

  • The leaders of Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece backed Serbia’s bid to join the European Union at a joint summit in Varna on 3 October, saying this would help guarantee regional peace and security, RFE/RL reports.

Compiled by Claudia Harmata

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