Croatian ministers call for putting an end to anti-Croat sentiment in Serbia

By withdrawing its ambassador from Belgrade following an incident in which war crimes indictee Vojislav Seselj set a Croatian flag on fire, Croatia has sent a message to Serbia that it must abide by decisions of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and that it ought to cease insulting the feelings of people in Croatia

On Wednesday, the Croatian foreign ministry forwarded a strongly-worded protest note to the Serbian Charge d'Affaires in Croatia, Bosa Prodanovic, and Croatian Ambassador to Serbia Gordan Markotic has been summoned to Zagreb for consultations after Seselj burnt a Croatian flag outside the Hall of Justice in Belgrade.

Commenting on the developments surrounding Seselj and his war-mongering rhetoric, the Croatian minister said that Serbia "ought to change its attitude to this matter and abide by the Hague tribunal's decisions, just as Croatia did."

Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic said that "anybody who behaves like Seselj should be penalised and prosecuted."

Prosecutors in Belgrade on Wednesday launched proceedings against Seselj over the flag desecration incident. During the incident, Seselj, the Serbian Radical Party leader, was accompanied by dozens of his followers. Reporters were at the scene as well.

Earlier on Wednesday, Seselj was served with a decision from the Hague tribunal ordering that he return to its detention unit. He was granted a provisional release in November 2014 on account of his bad health, and he has told reporters that he will not return to The Hague of his own accord and that Serbian authorities will have to arrest him.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday that Seselj's setting on fire a Croatian flag sent a bad message about Serbia and he called for defusing tensions, adding that he would talk on the telephone with Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic so that they could call on members of their governments to act reasonably.

Vucic's statement ensued after a minister from his cabinet, Aleksandar Vulin, gave an inflammatory statement in which he accused PM Milanovic of speaking against Serbia.

The Croatian foreign ministry described Vulin's statement as "insulting, unacceptable and utterly irresponsible".

(Hina) ms