news 04 Jan 13

Croatian, Serbian PMs to Meet, Heal Rift

Ivica Dacic and Zoran Milanovic are expected to meet soon, 'on neutral ground', with a view to bridging the widening divide between Zagreb and Belgrade.

Belgrade

Serbia's Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, says he expects to meet his Croatian counterpart, Zoran Milanovic, in the first half of 2013.

"I believe it is important to do some things so that we do not go too far in growing apart," Dacic told Serbian broadcaster B92.

Similar voices have been heard from the Croatian side.

On January 2, the Zagreb daily newspaper Jutarnji List reported that a meeting between the Serbian and Croatian Prime Ministers would take place in the near future.

Quoting a top Croatian government source, the paper said the meeting would likely take place at an international conference or gathering, not in Zagreb or Belgrade.

On Monday, Vesna Pusic, Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, told the Serbian daily newspaper Dnevnik that preparations were underway for the leaders to meet, adding that relations were "heading in the right direction.

"The purpose of the meeting will be to take a positive step and not just a good photograph for the press," Pusic said, without specifying when the meeting might be held.

Relations between the two Balkan countries have been chilly ever since a more nationalist government replaced the centrist Democrat-led government in Serbia in general, local and presidential elections last May.

The new government comprises the Serbian Progressive Party, Dacic's Socialists and the United Regions of Serbia.

Croatia's President, Ivo Josipovic, did not attend the inauguration of Serbia's new President, Tomislav Nikolic, from the Progressives, citing the latter's words of support for a "greater Serbia".

Nikolic has a negative image in Croatia, largely because he took part in, and was a keen supporter, of the war conducted by the Serb-led Yugoslav Army against Croatian independence in the early 1990s.

For several months of 1991 he was in the eastern Croatian village of Antin in the company of a notorious Serbian paramilitary unit, known as the Chetniks.

Tensions between Croatia and Serbia also flared recently after two Croatian war generals were acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ITCY.

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