The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has said that a note by the Serbian Foreign Ministry that claims that Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac offends and disparages Serbia is just part of the election campaign in that country, reiterating that it wants good neighbourly and partner relations with Serbia.

"The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has been following with interest the election campaign in Serbia with which Croatia wants to have good neighbourly and partner relations, based on values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including minority rights," the ministry said in a press release on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Serbian Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to the Croatian Ambassador in Serbia, Gordan Markotic, over Kovac's statements to the Croatian media on April 16 "which insult and disparage Serbia."

In an interview with the Jutarnji List daily on April 16, Kovac speaks about the conditions which Serbia has to meet as part of its accession negotiations with the European Union, notably full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague and the abolishment of the Law on Jurisdiction for War Crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

"It is very clear that the country where plans for the 1990s wars originated cannot be the judge and police for war crimes in all countries of the former Yugoslavia - including Croatia. Imagine that. That is absurd, a historical perversion that prevents good neighbourly cooperation," Kovac said.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said that it "considers it inappropriate for Croatian officials to describe the enforcement of Serbian laws in public statements as 'a historical perversion' and to imply that Serbia 'is the country where plans for the 1990s wars originated'."

An early parliamentary election and by-elections in Serbia are set for April 24. 

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