Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic
Photograph: HINA / Zoran ŽESTIĆ / TANJUG/ mm

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Monday that Croatia was using its relations with Serbia for internal political fighting and that its messages on the possible blockade of Serbia's EU integration process were not contributing to the advancement of relations between the two countries.

Commenting in an interview with Belgrade Radio on a statement by Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac on the possible blockade of the opening of Chapter 23 in Serbia-EU membership talks, Dacic recalled that a few years ago the Croatian Parliament had adopted a document saying that bilateral relations and issues would not be used to slow Serbia's integration into the EU.

"However, in Croatia, relations with Serbia are obviously being used as an easy mechanism for internal political fighting and such messages from Croatia are certainly not contributing to progress in relations with our neighbours," Dacic said.

Croatia wants Serbia to abolish jurisdiction over war crimes committed throughout the former Yugoslavia and to improve the status of the Croatian minority in Serbia. Zagreb wants these two conditions to be included among the benchmarks and fulfilled during EU accession negotiations, otherwise it will not be possible for Serbia to close the negotiations, Kovac told APA news agency in an interview on Sunday.

"We are ready to deal with problems through dialogue, but we will not agree to any blackmail by Croatia, especially in view of the fact that Croatia is far from being in a position to lecture Serbia on the status of the national minorities in Serbia considering everything that the Serbs in Croatia have experienced in the last 10-20 years, not to mention the Second World War. All in all, Croatia's threats are pointless and I am sure that it will not receive support from any of the EU member states," Dacic said.

As regards Kovac's statement concerning the border with Serbia, Dacic said that Croatia should first settle its border issues with Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dacic said that a compromise would not be possible if Zagreb were always to insist on its own positions. "If that's a compromise, to have it their own way, then there will certainly never be any compromise. My advice to Croatia is that it should stop thinking of itself as a world power because it is far from it. It can set conditions to Serbia, as it has done before, but in the case of the customs dispute the EU took Serbia's side."

Dacic said that he and Kovac had agreed to start dealing with all outstanding issues after the forthcoming parliamentary election in Serbia. "Dialogue is the only solution," he said.

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