The 20th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia which lasted for 11 weeks and, left some 2,500 civilians and 1,000 soldiers and police officers dead, was marked on Sunday, by a series of events and laying of wreaths and flowers on victims’ monuments.
The bombing lasted for 78 days, significantly damaging the infrastructure, commercial property, healthcare facilities and media and military buildings.
The NATO operation, which was described by the former Yugoslav government and many legal experts as aggression, was the result of failed negotiations on solving the Kosovo crisis in Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999.
The bombing ended on June 10th with the adoption of UN Security Council’s Resolution 1244, after which police and military forces started pulling from Kosovo, and international peace-keeping troops began entering the region.
According to the UNHCR’s data, after the peace-keeping forces entered Kosovo, some 230,000 Serbs and Rome left Kosovo, and approx. 800.000 Albanian refugees had returned.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told the conference “NATO Aggression on Yugoslavia – 20 Years After,” the country should not forget the victims and destruction caused by bombs, the Beta news agency reported on Friday.
However, she said Serbia should try to forgive since it would be the only way for the country to materialise its potentials and turn to the future, partnership and cooperation.
“No one ought to remind Serbia about its mistakes. We are aware of them, but the 1999 bombing was others’ misstep, not of the citizens of Serbia who were the victims of those whom we fought for freedom and justice in two wars together. For the sake of the future, it would be good if they were aware of that mistake as well,” Brnabic said.
“NATO committed a crime when it bombed Serbia and the country will never join the alliance,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Sunday on the 20th anniversary of NATO intervening against Yugoslavia to stop the bloodshed in Kosovo.
“The death of 2,500 civilians, of 79 children, the devastation of the country, damage running into tens of billions of dollars, it will always be a crime for us,” he said at a ceremony held in Nis, 250 kilometres south of Belgrade.
Earlier on Sunday, the ambassadors of eight Western countries — Canadian, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Norwegian, British and American — paid their respects to civilian victims at a monument in Belgrade.
“We remember March 24 as the day diplomacy failed, and we express our sincere regret for the loss of civilian lives during the events of 1999,” they said in a joint statement. “We are saddened for all of those who lost their loved ones during the wars of the 1990s. We are here to honour their memory and are determined to work even harder to contribute to lasting peace and stability to the region.”
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