Zeman Apologizes for NATO’s 1999 Bombardments of Yugoslavia

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The Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman on Tuesday apologized for NATO’s bombardments of Yugoslavia in 1999.

He made a statement to this effect during negotiations with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, who is in the Czech Republic on a visit, the Czech leader’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček tweeted on Tuesday.

“President Milos Zeman presented public apologies to President Aleksandar Vucic for the [NATO] bombardments of Yugoslavia in 1999,” Ovcacek said. He stressed that Zeman “personally asked the Serbian people for forgiveness.”

The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999. The alliance’s bombardments followed on March 24 to continue till June 10, 1999. Zeman, the then Czech prime minister, strongly protested against NATO’s actions and stressed the historical and cultural proximity of the people of the Czech Republic and Yugoslavia.

The Czech authorities then denied permission to NATO planes participating in the operation to land in the country’s territory.

After the talks with Vucic on Tuesday Zeman told the media: “We were hopelessly looking for at least one more [NATO] country that would join us and come out against [the bombardments of Yugoslavia]. We remained all alone.” Nevertheless, he is certain that his country should have pressed for an end to the bombardments with greater resolve.

The Czech and Serbian leaders discussed the outlook for bilateral inter-state cooperation in different fields, crucial international issues and progress in the vaccination against the coronavirus in their countries.

Zeman and Vucic exchanged their countries’ highest state decorations.

Vucic arrived in the Czech Republic on Monday evening to begin the official part of the visit with talks with Zeman in the presidential residence Prague Castle.

Later on Tuesday, he held meetings with the speakers of both houses of the Czech parliament, Milos Vystrcil and Radek Vondracek, and on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Vucic will leave the Czech Republic after that.

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