JULY 17 2015 19:07h

Croatian ministers condemn Vucic's statement on Operation Storm




By marking the anniversary of the military and police operation "Storm" of 1995, Croatia celebrates its liberation from foreign occupation and in doing so, it expects not only understanding but also support from every normal policy, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic said after talks with Iraqi Kurdistan Foreign Minister Mustafa Falah Bakir in Zagreb on Friday.

"Croatia celebrates its liberation from occupation by foreign forces and in doing so it expects not only understanding but also support from every normal policy because I don't see what policy could claim that the day on which a country liberated itself from foreign occupation and the fact that it was cut in two pieces is a day of sorrow," Pusic said when asked by a reporter to comment on Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's statement that the anniversary of Operation Storm, August 5, was the saddest day in Serbia's history and that candles would be lit on the border crossing Raca on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina on that day to commemorate the suffering of the Serb people.

"I do not understand his statements because I consider it to be normal for every country, including Croatia, to celebrate the day of the reintegration of its territory, which was previously under the occupation of the so-called Yugoslav People's Army which had in the meantime turned into Slobodan Milosevic's army and of paramilitary forces. That is what we celebrate. We do not celebrate tragedies that happened to individuals, which, unfortunately, happen in all wars and that is why it is important not to start wars because when you start a war, a lot of people get hurt," Pusic said.

She stressed that a lot of people, Croatian citizens and Croats, were killed during the war.

"Numerous citizens of Serb ethnicity who left Croatia at that time are fortunately returning of their own accord because they believe that here they have better living conditions and they are welcome, because this is their country," she said.

She added that one should stop abusing the 1990s wars for political promotion and that "all should turn to what awaits us tomorrow."

"What has been happening lately is counterproductive for relations in the region and for the normalisation of relations between the countries and is in a way a setback for what we have achieved in mutual relations," said the minister.

Commenting on Vucic's statement, Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic said that Vucic was not credible because in the 1990s he had called for killing and hate, adding that Operation Storm had prevented an atrocity much bigger than the Srebrenica massacre.

"Comments by the person who in the 1990s, with a rifle in his hand, instigated the worst things and called for murder and hate, are not credible in the least," Kotromanovic said in a statement.

He added that Vucic was again trying to even out guilt and equate the victim and the aggressor, while places such as Vukovar and Srebrenica were the best evidence of who the victim was.

"Operation Storm was a legitimate operation that prevented, among other things, yet another massacre that would have occurred at a much more massive scale than Srebrenica. That is why I believe that the Serbian Prime Minister should respect Operation Storm more because without it, today he would probably have to attend one more commemoration and apologise for one more genocide," said Kotromanovic.

He said that petty political games could not distort historical facts that the war was waged in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, calling on Serbia to follow the example of Croatia, which, he said, did not foment hate and did not justify the bad things that had happened.

"That is why today it is a member of the European Union and NATO. I hope Serbia's leadership will soon realise that that is the only path that leads forward," said Kotromanovic.



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