Vucic meets with Israel's Rivlin, talks about Croat crimes

Aleksandar Vucic stressed on Thursday that the Serbs will not forget the terrible suffering, crimes and genocide committed against them and the Jews in the NDH.

Source: Tanjug
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(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

The Serbian president said this during a joint news conference in Belgrade with his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin, who arrived here after visiting Croatia on Wednesday.

Vucic, who was referring to the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a WW2 Nazi allied entity, said that Serbia "respects all victims and always speaks not only about Serb, but also about Jewish and other victims, when commemorating their suffering."

"We will not allow anyone to reduce the number of the Serb victims, for these victims whose number goes into hundreds of thousands not to be mentioned. We will not allow this and we will stick to history," he underlined.

Vucic said he told Rivlin that Croatia's 1995 attack on ethnic Serb areas in Croatia, known as "Operation Storm," is something that "some" celebrate as the greatest victory, but that the Serbs perceive it as the greatest misfortune for their people. "While some are rejoicing on August 4, others mourn. I acquainted President Rivlin with the fact that this was the biggest ethnic cleansing that took place after the Second World War," explained Vucic.

The president also said that he "launched talks" with his Israeli colleague concerning the Staro Sajmiste (memorial) - the site of a concentration camp set up in Belgrade by Germans during the WW2 occupation of Serbia - and that the idea is "to form something that would be our Yad Vashem - even though Yad Vashem is unique - where we would talk about Serb, Jewish and Roma victims."

He also thanked Rivlin for "most important words that he said" when he on Wednesday visited Jasenovac, the site of a Croatian WW2 death camp.

Vucic recalled that this is the first official visit of a president the state of Israel to Serbia, adding that he is "proud of the fact that he has the honor to host the high guest," adding that he "hopes Israel's president and prime minister would come to our country more often in the future."

Vucic said that relations between the two countries are traditionally good, but that relations between the Serb and the Jewish people are on an even higher and better level.

"The Serbs and the Jews have together gone through many troubles and sufferings during the First and the Second World Wars in particular. We always knew to respect each other, and the victims of both nations. There is almost no antisemitism in Serbia and there will never be fascism, neo-Nazism, and neo-fascism in Serbia. You can see that in all the cities across Serbia, in people's face, in our streets," he stressed.

Vucic said that Serbia has a great interest in developing comprehensive cooperation with Israel in all areas, "and one of them is to never forget, and to remember the suffering of our nations."

He thanked Rivlin for Israel's decision not to recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, "just as Serbia will always support the existence and survival of the state of Israel and cultivate friendly relations with the Israeli state and people."

He said that Serbia will host an event on Thursday evening "that will mark our friendship forever." Vucic pointed out that one of the founders of the state of Israel, Theodor Herzl, originates from Zemun, and said that one of the streets in that part of Belgrade will be named after him in a ceremony later in the day.

The president repeated that the Jews went through all the sufferings together with the Serbs and expressed gratitude to Gideon Greif, a leading researcher who has contributed to the data about Jasenovac "being impossible to hide."

He said that with the Law on Restitution (of Jewish property), Serbia carried out its duty, did something that is important for the establishment of justice, "and more important than than the money is the fact this was work done on future relations."

Vucic said he also spoke with his Israeli counterpart about concrete bilateral relations, and said he expected them to improve through more trade. He recalled that there is a large number of Israeli companies in Serbia, adding that "we want even more investors from that country."

"I am convinced that we can be more bold in inviting Israeli tourists to come to Serbia, we are ready to also call on our citizens to go to Israel, both to Jerusalem and to Tel Aviv," he stressed.

Vucic pointed out that relations between the two countries have been analyzed during the meeting, and that he and Rivlin considered putting mechanisms in place to enable faster communication in order to react in the interest of both countries.

The president said that a Mixed Cooperation Committee will be formed, headed by ministers Nenad Popovic and Sinisa Mali on the side of Serbia. "We expect great results from the work of this committee, and for economic cooperation to be as good as the political one," he said.

Vucic also told reporters that he spoke with Rivlin about the situation in the Middle East, and "heard about the challenges Israel is facing."

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