Montenegro's hails new Serbian president's words, that Montenegrin independence is a done deal, as a message for Serbs in the country to reconcile themselves to Montenegrin statehood.
“I recognise Montenegrin independence forever, but I don't recognise any difference between Serbs and Montenegrins, because it doesn't exist," Tomislav Nikolic, leader of Serbian Progressive Party and newly elected president of Serbia, said on Tuesday.
Serbia's new head of state also expressed wishes for better relations between the two countries.
Caslav Vesovic, spokesman of Montenegro's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, on Wednesday said this sent an important message to Serbs in Montenegro that their capital is Podgorica, not Belgrade.
The other part of Nikolic's statement, denying any differences exist between Serbs and Montenegrins, prompted more cautious reactions.
Vesovic said that Montenegro, as a civic state, neither makes nor erases differences between its people.
Nikolic, a Serb nationalist, signaled a shift in his attitudes towards Montenegro last November, when, on the eve of the start of the electoral campaign in Serbia, he talked to the DPS chairman Milo Djukanovic.
On that occasion, he said that Serbia should have close cooperation with Montenegro and that Montenegro’s recognition of Kosovo's independence in 2008 shouldn’t be an obstacle.
Such attitudes on the part of Serbia’s new president come as a surprise, given some of his previous statements.
Prior to the 2006 referendum on Montenegrin independence, Nikolic, then deputy chairman of Serbian Radical Party, claimed that independence would mean the "sale" of Montenegro and he also predicted that it would not last more than two years.
He warned that Serbia’s relations with independent Montenegro would not be good and condemned the decision to recognise the independence of the former Serbian province of Kosovo, claiming that it endangered the security of Motenegro’s Serbs.
Montenegro, formerly part of rump Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and then of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, pursued a more independent course from Serbia from 1997 onwards, in return receiving rewards from the West.
In 1999 it introduced a separate currency, which created separate economic systems in the two republics even while they remained formally part of one state.
This month, Montenegro celebrated six years of independence, which was won by a majority vote in a referendum.