July 7, 2015 / 9:37 PM / 4 years ago

Serbia government agrees to send PM to July 11 Srebrenica commemoration

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday his government unanimously agreed to send him to a July 11 commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, hours after the United Nations Security Council postponed debate over a resolution to mark the 20th anniversary.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attends a news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (not pictured) in Budapest, Hungary, July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

“Tonight the government unanimously made a decision ... that if the conditions are met, that I will represent Serbia in Srebrenica on July 11,” Vucic told a news conference in Belgrade.

A U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution to condemn the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide has been delayed until Wednesday as Britain and the United States try to convince Russia not to veto the commemoration, diplomats said.

Vucic’s attendance at the July 11 ceremony in eastern Bosnia will be a landmark for the reconciliation among former Yugoslav republics after the 1990s wars that killed some 135,000 people.

“When I spoke about conditions I was thinking about position of (Srebrenica’s mayor) Camil Durakovic, mothers (of victims) and the Muslim member of (Bosnia’s tripartite) presidency,” he said.

Durakovic and other prominent Bosniaks have voiced their opposition to Vucic’s visit, particularly after the recent arrest of Naser Oric, Srebrenica’s wartime commander in Switzerland, on a Serbian war crimes arrest warrant.

Former Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the 15th Srebrenica anniversary in 2010, but Vucic, a former nationalist, is more closely associated with the Greater Serbia ideology that fuelled much of the bloodshed.

On July 11, 1995, toward the end of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Bosnian Serb troops overran the eastern Srebrenica enclave, a U.N.-designated “safe area,” executing around 8,000 Muslims in the days that followed.

Serbia in 2010 acknowledged that a “grave crime” took place in Srebrenica and condemned the massacre, as it sought closer ties with the West, but stopped short of calling it a genocide.

Vucic said he had received assurances that the U.N. resolution on Srebrenica which he described as “humiliating” for Serbia and the Serb Republic would not be adopted “in its present form.” He thanked Russia, China, and “other countries” for opposing the resolution.

“I must admit the Russian partners did not ask us for anything in return,” Vucic said.

Serbia and Russia are traditional allies who share the Orthodox Christian faith and Slavic ethnic origins. Although it wants to join the European Union, Serbia has refused to impose sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine’s conflict and last year it feted Russia’s Vladimir Putin a military parade in Belgrade.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, editing by G Crosse and Christian Plumb

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