BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia and Croatia agreed Wednesday to indefinitely postpone a visit by the Serbian president as diplomatic tensions soared between the two Balkan rivals.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in a statement that the visit by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, tentatively scheduled for November or December, had to be postponed because there is currently no “mutual trust” between the two neighbors which had been at war in the 1990s.
“The main goal of the Serbian president’s visit to Croatia, when it happens, should be a positive step in resolving open questions,” Grabar-Kitarovic said. “Relations between the two countries don’t have to be friendly, but they must cooperate for their own future and the stability of southeastern Europe.”
Grabar-Kitarovic said the decision on postponing the visit was reached mutually with Vucic.
Simmering tensions between the two states over a number of issues escalated into a war of words after Serbia unveiled earlier this month a monument to a Yugoslav major who blew himself up rather than surrender to Croatian forces during Croatia’s war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia.
Serbia considers the major, Milan Tepic, a wartime hero, while Croatia brands him a “madman” who killed 11 Croatian soldiers in the huge explosion that also endangered hundreds of civilians living in a nearby Croatian town.
Croatian Foreign Ministry issued a diplomatic protest against the monument, saying it confirms that Serbia “still is not ready to confront the past and its role in the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.”
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has described Croatia’s protest as “madness” and “anti-Serb hysteria.” Croatia’s foreign ministry in turn described such statements as “unacceptable … arbitrary and malicious.”
Good relations between Serbia and Croatia are crucial for the stability of the war-weary Balkans.