Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic on Thursday called on Croatian officials to stop the insults on account of Serbs, assessing that the statement by Croatia's former prime minister Zoran Milanovic that Serbs were a "handful of wretches" resembled what WWII Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic thought of and how he acted toward Serbs.

"His (Milanovic's) words resemble what Ante Pavelic thought about us and how he acted toward us and I'm afraid that although decades have passed, that has not had much influence on many people in Croatia," Nikolic said commenting on statements Milanovic made during a meeting with Croatian veterans earlier in the week. The statements were leaked to the press after being recorded secretly.

Nikolic added that Serbia would continue to extend the hand of reconciliation and would not "shut its borders or (freeze its) relations with Croatia."

"We will continue to extend the hand of reconciliation. I repeat, it depends on Croatia whether we will have good relations or not - Serbia is always ready," Nikolic underscored, calling on Croatian officials to stop the rhetoric that raises tensions.

Electronic media and portals in Serbia released an audio recording of Milanovic's talks with veterans and his statements were released in the printed media but without as much attention as was given to arguments between Serbian and Croatian officials over the past few days.

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Monday said that ministers in his government would in the future "refrain as much as possible" from making comments and reacting to statements by Croatian officials and that Serbia would continue to implement its policy of peace and good neighbourly relations as well as protect its integrity and sovereignty.

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