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Serbian President Boris Tadic, on his second visit to neighboring Croatia in less than a month, met with President Ivo Josipovic in Zagreb on Wednesday to discuss further normalization of relations between the two combative former Yugoslav republics.

After a private meeting in the Croatian president’s office, the two leaders said that among the many “open questions” between Serbia and Croatia, the issues surrounding the fate of missing persons resulting from the wars of secession during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the resolution of the legal issues of displaced persons and their property were the priorities, reported the Serbian news agency Tanjug.

“We have had misunderstandings, the destruction of war, victims, ” said Tadic in Zagreb. “We have issued apologies — which is an extremely important step for the collective relations of these two countries. Without a resolution of international and bilateral relations and economic cooperation there will be no progress.”

Specifically, Tadic repeated his position that the counter- suits of genocide before the International Court of Justice should be resolved amicably, out of court, between Serbia and Croatia. He stated that any such agreement would have to ensure that those guilty of war crimes would not go unpunished.

Speaking on the question of the capture of the two remaining high-ranking Serb fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ( ICTY), Tadic stated that if they were hiding in Serbia they would be captured.

Mladic was the commander in chief of the Bosnian Serb Army during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Hadzic was a president of the secessionist Serb territories of Croatia, which refused to recognize Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia, during the 1990s.

“We agreed to extend the opening of all archives to be able to resolve the problem of missing persons,” said Josipovic. Both presidents underscored the priority of addressing this issue, as both countries share a common European perspective.

The property rights of the Serbs forced out of Croatia during a Croatian military campaign in 1995 was also discussed. An estimated 250,000 Serbs left Croatia during the war.

“It is essential that all Serbs who want to return to Croatia can be included in a reconstruction program,” said Josipovic. ” Those who do not wish (to return) will — through donor funding — resolve their housing issues in Serbia.”

An international donor conference, including the U.S., EU and UN, will be conducted in the first half of 2011 to raise funds for the housing of Serb refugees in Serbia, according to Josipovic. Serbia is currently home to the largest population of refugees in Europe.

November 24, 2010

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