aleksandar vučić.jpg
Photograph: POOL/ HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ /ds

The Hague war crimes tribunal has not achieved its main goal - to contribute to the post-war reconciliation of the former Yugoslav peoples, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday, noting that a Greater Serbia policy had never been and would never be a policy of the Serbian government and that he would "strongly oppose" the policy of Vojislav Seselj, who "is pushing Serbia into the past and into isolation from other peoples in the Balkans." 

Addressing a news conference that was televised live by the RTS public broadcaster, Vucic said that one of the three main objectives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had been reconciliation between peoples that waged bloody wars against one another in the 1990s.

The ICTY did not achieve that goal but rather "drove nails into the coffin of the dormant Balkans, which supposedly should again return to blood and crimes," Vucic said, adding that some of the ICTY's verdicts exposed the tribunal as a "political court rather than a legal institution."

The verdicts to Radovan Karadzic and Vojislav Seselj come at a time when Serbia is at a political, economic and moral crossroads, Vucic said, adding that the Greater Serbian policy had never been and would never be a policy of the Serbian government.

Serbia wants to be a "stable and safe country" which does not want to go back to the past and to the times of uncertainty, he stressed.

He called on "all Serbian citizens to be different from those who lecture us every day. We should respect both Muslim and Croatian victims and thus show how much different we are, we should show that we can and know how to talk to everyone and accept and understand others' pain and suffering as the pain and suffering of our own people."

Asked explicitly if he had renounced the Greater Serbia project and policies from the 1990s, when he and Seselj shared the same views in the Serbian Radical Party, Vucic said that eight years ago he returned his term to the Serbian Radical Party and renounced its policy "and won the trust of the people with a different policy."

"I believe that was the fairest thing to do. I also remind you that something did happen during those eight years," Vucic said, adding that he was not afraid of reporters' questions because his conscience was clear.

He said that demonstrating arrogance after the Seselj acquittal was a "bad message".

"We want Serbia to enjoy respect in this region... and not be made seem worse than it is," he said, adding that it would be very dangerous for the country if "such forces won the majority support of the people."

He said that he was proud that his government "has protected laws and the dignity of Serbian citizens and of citizen Seselj," whom he said he did not view with animosity but whose policy he opposed.

"We will strongly oppose his policy because it pushes Serbia back to the past, to political and economic problems and to a policy that would isolate us from all the other Balkan nations," Vucic said.

He called on Serbian citizens to unite in a policy that will make Serbia a respected country in the Balkans and elsewhere.

After the verdict in the case of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was announced, the Serbian government sent out "the most responsible, clear and serious" message, not wishing to comment on the content of the verdict, said the Serbian PM.

"We only said one sentence, which is that we will not allow the tribunal's verdict to be used as a basis to dismantle Republika Srpska. Those are our constitutional and legal obligations," said Vucic.

Commenting on the possibility that Seselj could be arrested if he decided to travel to Croatia, which has declared him a persona non grata, Vucic said that he hoped "the hysteria would calm down."

Serbia will "protect the interests and human rights of all its citizens", without going into the policies they advocate, he said.

As for his planned visits to Mostar and to Jasenovac, the site of a World War II Ustasha-run concentration camp, Vucic said none of those visits had been brought into question by the verdicts to Karadzic and Seselj.

"You cannot not mark the 75th anniversary of the genocide in Jasenovac, I believe that they (Croatians), too, agree with that. I will certainly visit Mostar and I expect good talks with both the Croat and Bosniak representatives. I am always ready for talks but I will not allow anyone to humiliate Serbia," said Vucic.

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