BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s prime minister, a former extreme nationalist, said Friday he is ready to attend memorial ceremonies next month marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica where Bosnian Serbs killed nearly 8,000 Muslims during the 1992-95 war.
In what he described as a sincere offer of reconciliation to the former wartime foes, Aleksandar Vucic said that “I am ready to lower and bow my head.”
“If the Bosniaks want that and if it is not a problem for them, I am ready to honor the innocent victims of Srebrenica,” Vucic added during a news conference broadcast live on several local television stations.
But Vucic, who now declares himself a pro-EU reformer, stopped short of calling the Srebrenica massacre a genocide, as it was ruled by a U.N. court. He said instead that a “big and horrific crime” took place in the eastern Bosnian town in July 1995.
Bosnian Serbs rounded up Srebrenica men and boys after taking control of the town in an offensive. They killed most of them in just a few days, later burying their bodies in mass graves around the town.
Serbia, which backed the Bosnian Serb war effort against the Muslim-led Bosnian government during the conflict, must mend relations with its neighbors to advance in a bid for European Union membership.
Vucic’s comments came amid tensions over the arrest in Switzerland of a former Bosnian Muslim commander on a war crimes warrant from Belgrade, which has led to the cancellation this week of the Serbian president’s planned visit to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Some Bosnian officials have said Serbia’s leaders are not welcome at the Srebrenica memorial if Naser Oric remains in jail.
Bosnia’s Muslims consider the wartime commander of Srebrenica Muslim troops a hero, while Serbia accuses him of atrocities against Serb civilians. The U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has ruled he had no command over the forces that committed war crimes.
More than 100,000 people died during the Bosnian war and millions were left homeless.
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