World Bulletin/News Desk
Serbia's nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic has personally apologised for the first time for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims, but stopped short of calling it genocide, Al Jazeera reported.
"I kneel and ask for forgiveness for Serbia for the crime committed in Srebrenica," Nikolic said on Thursday in an interview to be aired on Bosnian national television parts of which have been released on You Tube.
"I apologise for the crimes committed by any individual in the name of our state and our people," he said in the interview.
Al Jazeera reporter in Belgrade Aljosa Milenkovic, said "May be it is sounding like a small political earthquake here in Balkans as President Nikolic is apologising for crimes committed by the Serbs during the 1990s violent breakup of Yugoslavia. But when one reads more into the interview he still did not recognise what happened at Srebrenica as genocide."
Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, told Bosnian state radio he was "positively surprised" by Nikolic's apology and said it should help improve ties between the two countries.
Thousands of Bosnians, mostly Muslims, were killed by Serb soldiers during the Balkan War between 1992 and 1996.
After being elected last May, Nikolic caused a stir in the region by refusing to acknowledge that the massacre in the Bosnian enclave, was a genocide, despite it being ruled as such by two international courts. Nikolic at the time said "there was no genocide in Srebrenica".
While this marks Nikolic's first apology on Srebrenica, Serbia has in the past expressed regret over the deaths.
In 2010, the Serbian parliament passed an historic declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre in a gesture ending years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings, but Nikolic at the time did not support the move.
Nikolic's predecessor Boris Tadic also apologised to Srebrenica victims during a commemoration event in 2005.
Both the ICTY and the United Nations' highest court, the International Court of Justice, have found that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide.
Bosnian Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic publicly upbraided Serbia's nationalist president on Tuesday, saying he must face the truth of Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo before the region can move on.
Addressing a joint news conference with Izetbegovic, Nikolic said Bosnia's 1992-95 war had ended "long ago" and that wounds should heal.
"We agreed that between us there will be no more disagreements or misunderstandings," he said.
Izetbegovic, the son of Bosnia's wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic, issued a scathing riposte:"Fifteen, twenty years ago, so not in the so distant past, we had a war, which did not come from Bosnia," he said.
"To move forward, we will have to stop for a moment, turn around and look into the past, at what happened in Srebrenica," he said. "It happened 8,372 times. Not a single hostage got out alive; children of 13, 14 years old. One must face up to this."
It was Izetbegovic's first official visit to Belgrade and first meeting with Nikolic. The Bosnian Muslim leader had said this month he would make the trip to warn Nikolic of the consequences of his rhetoric.
"In a 42-month siege, through three cold winters and around 1,000 shells per day, every third Sarajevan was wounded and every tenth died. One must face up to this," Izetbegovic added.
Last Mod: 25 Nisan 2013, 17:36