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Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic said that after “big steps” were taken to find Croats missing since wartime, Zagreb and Belgrade could drop mutual allegations of genocide.
Speaking after meeting Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic in Zagreb on Monday, Pusic said that “space is opening up for talks on the withdrawal of law suits with Serbia” after “the first big steps” were made to find the bodies of Croats missing since the 1991-95 war.
“We are close to talking about the withdrawal of the law suits because we see that we’re really moving in finding the missing,” Pusic said.
Thirteen bodies were exhumed from two mass graves in the eastern Croatian village of Sotin last week after Serbia passed on information about where the bodies could be buried.
Vucic said that Serbia acted in the interests of justice.
“Nobody has an interest in hiding information about the missing. It is just that families know where the remains of their loved ones are,” he said.
Thanking Serbia for the information about the mass graves in Sotin, Pusic added that “Mr. Vucic said that Serbia is ready to cooperate with very specific information”.
Croatia filed a genocide law suit against Serbia at the International Court of Justice in 1999 over the killings of Croats during the war.
Serbia responded with a genocide law suit against Croatia at the same court in 2009 over the killings of Serbs during the same war. The Serbian suit also contains allegations that Croatia committed genocide against Serbs during World War Two.
Vucic was the highest-ranking Belgrade official to visit Croatia since the new Serbian government took office last year and relations between the neighbours cooled significantly.
In an interview for Croatian television on Sunday evening, Vucic said it was important that “Croatia and Serbia put things pragmatically and rationally”.
“It is important to make relations better. We are not doing it because anyone else is asking us to, but in the interest of our countries and our citizens,” he said.
He emphasised that the Serbian authorities were united in seeking to improve the relationship with Croatia.
“We agree on that and I expect [Serbian] President [Tomislav] Nikolic will attend the celebration of Croatia’s accession to the EU on June 30 in Zagreb,” Vucic said.
Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic will also meet Vucic during his visit.