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Croatia marks 25 years since war with tolerance message

But in Serbia tabloids speak of a "shameless" event

05 August, 18:43
(ANSA-AFP) - ZAGREB, 05 AGO - Croatia's top ethnic Serb official joined a ceremony Wednesday marking the 25th anniversary of a military victory that ended the country's independence war, setting a rare tone of reconciliation on a day normally charged with tension. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic is the first ethnic Serb political representative to attend the annual memorial for the "Operation Storm" offensive, in which Croatian troops reclaimed territory held by rebel Serbs during the 1991-95 independence war. While Zagreb celebrates the day as a victorious moment of liberation, Belgrade mourns the fate of ethnic Serbs who were killed or fled Croatia in the aftermath of the offensive. In Croatia this year, a small olive branch was extended as the Serb minister joined other top officials at a ceremony which began at a fortress in Knin, where the names of nearly 200 fallen soldiers were read. Milosevic, whose grandmother was killed in the wake of the offensive, wrote on Facebook the "time has come for the politics of understanding and of respecting each other to defeat the politics of hatred".

The gesture was symbolic of the Croatian government's pledge to improve still fragile relations with ethnic Serbs, who make up some 4.5 percent of the 4.2 million population. It will "send a new message for Croatian society, relations between Croatians and Serb minority ... between Croatia and Serbia," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. Yet the move was met with backlash across the border in Serbia, where pro-government tabloids attacked the Serb politician as "shameless". (ANSA-AFP).

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