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news 12 Dec 17

Montenegro, Croatia 'Close to Deal' on Disputed Yugoslav Ship

Croatia and Montenegro appear set to finally solve a 25-year ownership dispute over Jadran, a former Royal Yugoslav military training ship built in the 1930s, which is claimed by both countries.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Jadran in the Montenegrin port of Tivat. Photo: go.mod.me

Defence ministries in Montenegro and Croatia have hinted that they might be close to resolving their long-running dispute over Jadran, a Yugoslav ship which is currently part of the Montenegrin naval fleet based in the port of Tivat, but is also claimed by Croatia.

Sinisa Lukovic, a Montenegrin military expert and a journalist who has covered the navy for several years, said that after an extended period of sharp words and conflicting arguments, Montenegro and Croatia could soon reach a deal.

Lukovic said that according to his information, the Montenegrin Defence Ministry plans to offer joint usage to the Croatian side, and while Jadran will probably be docked in the Croatian port of Split, it will also be used for training purpose by both the Croatian and Montenegrin militaries.

"This is an unusual solution as the military ship could have only one commander, who is a military officer of one army. Now, plans for Jadran [indicate] that it would not sail under a Montenegrin or Croatian flag," Lukovic told BIRN.

He mentioned possible plans for Jadran to sail under a NATO flag, as both Montenegro and Croatia are members of the Western military alliance.

The ship was docked in Split until 1991, when it was moved to Tivat during the war.

The Croatian Defence Ministry says that the return of Jadran is one of its main foreign policy priorities.

An organisation of former Jadran commanders said on Monday the ship has been in Montenegro illegally for 25 years, urging the government in Podgorica to return it as soon as possible to Split.

The ship was built in 1931 and commissioned into the Yugoslav Royal Navy two years later. The navy used Jadran as a training vessel for decades.

Over the past 10 years, the Croatian Defence Ministry has repeatedly urged the government in Podgorica to return the ship to Croatia claiming that its ownership is "undisputed" and that it should be docked in Split from which it was "illegally taken" in the 1990s during the withdrawal of the Yugoslav troops from Croatia.

In October, the Croatian Defence Ministry said that discussions about Jadran would intensify by sending diplomatic notes to Montenegro. It said that "in the spirit of good neighbourly relations between Croatia and Montenegro", Zagreb had proposed a plan for the future ownership of the ship and offered the opportunity to share its usage, even though it would be part of the Croatian Navy.

BIRN contacted the Montenegrin Defence Ministry on Monday but it said it could not comment on the Jadran claims until the end of this week.

In September, Montenegrin Defence Minister Predrag Boskovic also hinted that Montenegro was ready to reach a deal on Jadran that would be "beneficial to everyone in the region".

Boskovic further confirmed that Croatia had been intensifying talks about the ship's ownership.

Montenegro and Serbia have already reached an agreement about the use of the former Yugoslav ship.

In June 2006, a month after Montenegro’s independence referendum, then Serbian President Boris Tadic and Montenegrin head of state Filip Vujacic agreed that Jadran could be used by the Serbian state for state "protocol purposes". 

However, Serbia has not yet made use of it. 

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