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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ZAGREB2004
2003-09-12 15:01:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

MESIC IN BELGRADE: HISTORIC VISIT?

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  HR  SM 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 002004 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/12/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR SM
SUBJECT: MESIC IN BELGRADE: HISTORIC VISIT?

REF: BELGRADE 2179

CLASSIFIED BY: NICHOLAS HILL, POLECON COUNSELOR, REASONS: 1.5 (B) AND
(D).

C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 002004

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/12/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR SM
SUBJECT: MESIC IN BELGRADE: HISTORIC VISIT?

REF: BELGRADE 2179

CLASSIFIED BY: NICHOLAS HILL, POLECON COUNSELOR, REASONS: 1.5 (B) AND
(D).


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: CROATIAN AUTHORITIES ARE GENERALLY
SATISFIED WITH PRESIDENT MESIC'S SEPTEMBER 10 TRIP TO
BELGRADE. THE PRESIDENT'S FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR, ANOTHER
MESIC STAFFER, AND THE HEAD OF THE MFA'S EASTERN BALKANS
OFFICE TOLD US THE TRIP WENT BETTER THAN EXPECTED, WITH THE
TWO PRESIDENTS MAKING FROM-THE-HEART STATEMENTS OF REGRET FOR
THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES' WAR-TIME LEGACIES. THE SAM
AMBASSADOR TO CROATIA, ON HAND IN BELGRADE FOR THE VISIT,
SAID THE SAME THING TO US ON RETURNING. THE CROATIAN PRESS
REPORTED SOME GRUMBLING, BUT FOR THE MOST PART THIS CAME FROM
THE USUAL SUSPECTS IN THE OPPOSITION TRYING TO SCORE POINTS
BEFORE ELECTIONS, EXPECTED IN NOVEMBER. END SUMMARY

HISTORIC VISIT?
--------------


2. (SBU) PRESIDENT MESIC'S TRIP TO BELGRADE WENT MUCH BETTER
THAN EXPECTED. THIS WAS HOW DAVOR VIDIS, HEAD OF THE MFA'S
EASTERN BALKANS OFFICE, SUMMED IT UP DURING A MEETING
SEPTEMBER 12. HE TOLD US THAT THE PRESIDENT TOOK ALONG
SEVERAL KEY PEOPLE -- INCLUDING FINANCE MINISTER CRKVENAC AND
DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER SIMONOVIC -- AND A LIST OF ISSUES TO
TACKLE. BUT TIME WAS SHORT, AND WHEN THE TWO PRESIDENTS
EXCHANGED APOLOGIES MID-WAY DURING THE VISIT, ALL THE OTHER
ISSUES MELTED INTO INSIGNIFICANCE. VIDIS TERMED THE EXCHANGE
OF APOLOGIES AN "HISTORIC" MOMENT IN THE RELATIONSHIP.


3. (C) MESIC'S SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR, IVICA
MASTRUKO, TOLD US SEPTEMBER 12 THAT, DESPITE THE BREVITY OF
THE VISIT, THE PRESIDENT COVERED MUCH GROUND. THE TWO
DELEGATIONS DISCUSSED THE DANUBE BORDER DISPUTE. MESIC MET
WITH A GROUP OF SERBIAN REFUGEES, AND LATER WITH A GROUP OF
ETHNIC CROAT LEADERS FROM SERBIA'S NORTHERN PROVINCE OF
VOJVODINA. MASTRUKO SAID THAT MESIC INVITED SAM PRESIDENT
MAROVIC TO CROATIA FOR A VISIT, PREFERABLY BEFORE THE END THE
YEAR. THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN MESIC AND MAROVIC -- BOTH FORMER
COMMUNIST PARTY MEMBERS IN THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA -- IS MUCH
BETTER THAN THAT BETWEEN MESIC AND FORMER FRY PRESIDENT
KOSTUNICA.


4. (C) SEPARATELY, KATARINA TRSNJAK, AN MFA OFFICIAL
SECONDED TO MESIC'S OFFICE, TOLD US THAT MESIC WAS SURPRISED
BY SAM PRESIDENT MAROVIC'S STATEMENT OF REGRET. MAROVIC USED
VERY STRAIGHT-FORWARD LANGUAGE, WITHOUT ANY HESITATION. THE
CROATIANS ON THE DELEGATION, SHE SAID, EXPECTED LANGUAGE MUCH
LESS FORTHCOMING. AT THE SAME TIME, MESIC'S COMMENTS WERE
MORE "LEGALLY GROUNDED," AS SHE PUT IT, ALTHOUGH ALSO VERY
SINCERE. ECHOING VIDIS, TRSNJAK SAID THAT AFTER THE EXCHANGE
OF APOLOGIES IT BECAME VERY DIFFICULT TO CONDUCT OTHER
BUSINESS. "IT WAS NEITHER THE PLACE NOR THE TIME."

OTHER REACTION
--------------


5. (SBU) MEANWHILE, PUBLIC REACTIONS TO THE VISIT WERE
GENERALLY POSITIVE. PM RACAN SAID HE "WELCOMED" MAROVIC'S
STATEMENT, WHICH HE CHARACTERIZED AS AN IMPORTANT SYMBOLIC
GESTURE IN THE STATES' BILATERAL RELATIONS. DEFENSE MINISTER
ANTUNOVIC SAID THE TWO PRESIDENTS' REMARKS AUGURED WELL FOR
EVEN BETTER RELATIONS IN THE FUTURE. CRITICS INCLUDED
HARD-LINE NATIONALIST IVIC PASALIC, PRESIDENT OF THE CROATIAN
BLOCK, WHO TERMED MESIC'S STATEMENT OF CONTRITION
"DISGRACEFUL," AND MAROVIC'S "INADEQUATE." HDZ VICE
PRESIDENT JADRANKA KOSAR AND CROATIAN PARTY OF RIGHTS
PRESIDENT ANTE DJAPIC SAID THEY OBJECTED TO WHAT SEEMED LIKE
AN EQUALIZATION OF GUILT.

COMMENT
--------------


6. (SBU) ANY MESIC TRIP, OWING TO THE PRESIDENT'S LIMITED
CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS, IS GOING TO BE SHORT ON SUBSTANCE --
AND THIS ONE WAS NO EXCEPTION. MESIC AND MAROVIC SHOWED SOME
DEGREE OF POLITICAL COURAGE IN EXCHANGING APOLOGIES, AND THIS
VISIT WILL DO MUCH TO PUSH BILATERAL RELATIONS EVEN FURTHER
IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. VIDIS WAS MORE CONFIDENT THAN HE HAS
BEEN IN SOME WHILE ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR PROGRESS ON A
NUMBER OF OUTSTANDING ISSUES, INCLUDING BORDERS. AND THE
BEST THING ABOUT THIS VISIT, HE QUIPPED, WAS THAT IT PUSHED
ZAGREB'S PROBLEMS WITH SLOVENIA OFF THE FRONT PAGES.
FRANK

NNNN