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22 November 201617:09

Comment by the Information and Press Department on Croatia’s formation of a governmental working group on cooperation with Ukraine

2153-22-11-2016

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We have taken note of reports on the creation, a short time ago, of a governmental working group in Croatia on cooperation with Ukraine, whose tasks are supposed to include the sharing with Kiev of Croatia’s experience in the “peaceful reintegration of occupied territories,” which supposedly could be applicable to Donetsk and Lugansk.

This move, officially confirmed by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic during his visit to Kiev on November 21, 2016, arouses serious concern. This new parallel structure will at best divert Kiev’s attention from the already halting implementation of its commitments under the Minsk Agreements. As repeatedly reaffirmed in the Normandy format, these agreements represent the sole means of resolving Ukraine’s internal crisis. We believe comprehensive assistance for the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures should be the primary focus of the efforts of all responsible representatives of the international community.

Zagreb’s interest in sharing its own peace-making ideas with Kiev raises questions, especially as it came amid plans to step up military-technical cooperation between Croatia and Ukraine. The casualties inflicted by the large-scale military operations in Croatia in 1995 –  Operation Lightning and Operation Storm – are well known, as is the resulting forced exodus of around 250,000 Serbs who permanently resided there. We have reason to fear that recommendations by foreign “consultants”, which might encourage dangerous illusions among the Kiev leadership that a military solution is possible in Donbass, will do anything but improve security in Ukraine’s southeast.

Moreover, it is simply absurd that the Croatian working group’s agenda mentions Crimea. We would like to repeat that the unification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with the Russian Federation resulted from the free and legitimate expression of the will of the Crimean people. The matter is closed. Instead of engaging in such pointless speculation, Zagreb should focus on more actively addressing its own chronic internal problems involving the rights of Serbs and other ethnic minorities in Croatia.            

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