Recently elected Croatian president Ivo Josipovic arrives in Bosnia on Wednesday on his first official visit to the country, and has said that he intends to deliver an important call for “peace and cooperation”.
On the first day of his visit to Bosnia, Josipovic is set to meet with a number of the country’s top officials and address its ethnically mixed central parliament.
On Thursday, he is scheduled to visit the village of Ahmici, where Zagreb-backed Bosnian Croat forces brutally massacred over 100 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians during the period in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war when Bosniaks and Croats fought against each other.
Josipovic will be the first Croatian official to pay tribute to Bosniak victims of the 1993 massacre in Ahmici.
“I will go to Ahmici because I want us to leave the bad past behind us and because a better future requires some symbolic gestures,” Josipovic told Croatian media ahead of his Bosnia visit.
“I want to say that I am sorry because Croatia was one of the factors which contributed to the suffering of people in that area,“ Josipovic said, adding that he would use his visit to Ahmici to deliver “a message of peace and a call to cooperation.“
On April 16, 1993 more than 100 Bosniak villagers – mostly women, children and old men – were killed in Ahmici by Bosnian Croat forces.
Some of the victims were burnt in their houses.
“If this (the visit) means that we will open a new door than it is something we must do. Let us leave history to historians, let us stop competing over history and start competing over who will be the best for the future,“ Josipovic said.
Josipovic told Croatian media that he will be accompanied during the visit to Ahmici by the leaders of Bosnia’s Catholic Church and Islamic Community, Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Mufti Mustafa Ceric, respectively, as well as by a number of Bosnian political leaders.
After Ahmici, they are expected to pay a joint visit to the nearby village of Krizancevo Selo, where Bosniak troops killed scores of Bosnian Croat civilians in December 1993.
Relations between Zagreb and Sarajevo have been gradually improving since the death in 1999 of independent Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tudjman, who backed the secessionists aspirations of Bosnian Croats during and after the Bosnian war.
Despite the fact that there are still open issues between Sarajevo and Zagreb, Croatia is now widely perceived in Bosnia as a friendly country.