Serbian President asks for pardon over Srebrenica massacre

 

Belgrade, Brussels

The Serbian President has apologised for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, saying he was on his knees and “asking for a pardon” for Europe's worst atrocity since the end of the Second World War.

President Tomislav Nikolic's comments came a week after Serbia inked a historic deal to normalise ties with Kosovo, and analysts say Belgrade is keen to soften relations with its neighbours as it seeks European Union membership and the financial boost that could bring.

While previous Serbian leaders have apologised for Srebrenica, President Nikolic stirred controversy after coming to power last May when he specifically denied that a genocide took place. The nationalist President again refused to refer to the events of 1995 as a genocide, instead issuing a broad apology for crimes during the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

“I apologise for the crimes committed by any individual in the name of our state and our people,” the President said in an interview due to air next month on Bosnian television. Extracts were released on YouTube.

“I'm on my knees,” he went on. “I am on my knees and asking for a pardon for Serbia for the crime that was committed in Srebrenica.”

Munira Subasic, the head of the Mothers of Srebrenica group, said his comments did not go far enough. “We don't need someone to kneel and ask for apology,” she said. “We want to hear Serbian president and Serbia say the word 'genocide'”

The 8,000 men and boys were killed in the summer of 1995 when Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-protected enclave. The massacre came towards the end of the 1993-1995 conflict which left 100,000 dead in Bosnia and tore the Balkans apart.

Some previous statements by President Nikolic had caused angry reactions. Earlier this month, in a debate before the UN, Mr Nikolic strongly criticised The Hague-based international war crimes tribunal, saying it was “biased against Serbs”.

Vesna Pesic, a commentator and former opposition politician, welcomed the comments as “an improvement” on what he had said before.

“This is the way out from madness we lived in and an indication that normalisation lies ahead, particularly after the agreement in Brussels was signed,” she said.

Mr Nikolic's apology came after his Prime Minister Ivica Dacic last Friday signed the first ever agreement with his Kosovan counterpart on the normalisation of relations, after months of EU-brokered talks.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognise it. Belgrade came under increasing pressure from the EU, which put normalisation of ties as a pre-condition for the start of membership talks. Serbia is keen to join the bloc to boost its sluggish economy. In the deal reached in Brussels, Belgrade has agreed to recognise Kosovan authority over its territory, including a Serb-dominated enclave in the north.

It was enough for the European Commission, which announced on Monday that they would be recommending the beginning of EU membership talks with Serbia. Serbian analyst Djordje Vukadinovic said that the apology by Mr Nikolic “came as a surprise”, and was most probably the result of international pressures.

It also comes days after a visit of Bosnia-Herzegovina President Bakir Izetbegovic to Belgrade, the first since the former Yugoslav republic became an independent state. Bosnia-Herzegovina is also keen to pursue EU membership.

Meanwhile the Kosovan Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, said that the apology to Bosnia “was important”. “But, he (Nikolic) should apologise for war crimes committed under the auspices of Serbian state in Kosovo as well,” Mr Hoxhaj tweeted.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

PHP Web Developer (HTML5, CSS3, Jenkins, Vagrant, MySQL)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: PHP Web Develo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice