Croatia's ambassador to Belgrade, Gordan Markotic, on Tuesday was handed a protest note by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protesting over the annulment by a Croatian court of a 1946 conviction of Zagreb Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, which Serbia sees as a rehabilitation of fascism and the Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

"The Republic of Serbia is appalled by the rehabilitation of the Nazi Ustasha NDH. The statement made by Stepinac at the Easter of 1941, that 'the NDH was created by the grace of God, the prudent and self-sacrificing work of the Leader (Ante Pavelic) and the Ustasha movement, and by the will of our allies (Hitler and Mussolini)' and that 'the NDH is the most notable event in the life of the Croatian people' best speak of Stepinac and those rehabilitating him," the protest note said.

The Croatian government and state authorities, through their public statements and the decision to annul the verdict against Stepinac, "are directly supporting those forces in Croatia that are against regional reconciliation and stability and that represent world views that are contrary to the basic principles of the civilisation and the foundations the UN and the EU rest upon," it added.

The Serbian ministry expressed concern about the anti-Serb sentiment in Croatia, saying that it had been developing freely in recent years with a clear tendency of escalating.

"In this year alone as many as 26 incidents and cases of hate speech against Serbs have been registered in the Republic of Croatia," the ministry said, adding that the responsibility for this lay with the Croatian government because it failed to prosecute the offenders and show the necessary care for the victims.

The protest note concludes by saying that Serbia is of the view that good-neighbourly relations with Croatia should be developed by respecting the foundations and tenets of antifascist Europe which are incorporated into European integration documents. It says that Serbia will always "oppose social movements and phenomena that glorify and use symbols characteristic of Nazism and fascism."

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