Thaw in Serbia-Macedonia relations
- Thaw in Serbia-Macedonia relations | 19:56 August 02 | AP
BELGRADE -- Monday -- In a sign of improving relations, top Serbian
and Macedonian leaders met Monday at a monastery in southern Serbia
that Macedonians link to the founding of their fledgling state.
The Macedonian delegation - headed by President Branko Crvenkovski -
was allowed to enter the monastery grounds that had been informally
off limits to officials from his republic for more than a decade. He
laid a wreath at the site of the 1944 meeting between Serbian and
Macedonian communist officials who negotiated relations between their
peoples within Yugoslavia, the predecessor state to Serbia-
The meeting, sixty years ago, was crucial to Macedonia's position as
one of six republics in Yugoslavia, which later led to full
sovereignty when the federation began to crumble in 1991 resulting
in independence for Macedonia and three other republics.
Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica also attended the
ceremony, in a sign of improved relations between the Balkan
neighbours, Serbia's state television reported.
The Belgrade government has never seriously challenged Macedonia's
statehood, but dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who run
the monastery, have been angered over Macedonia's split from "mother"
Serbia and particularly by establishment of Macedonia's own Orthodox
Church, which they regard as a splinter group.
Last year, a top Macedonian delegation was turned away from the
monastery by the Serbian priests.
This year's meeting of both secular and religious leaders of Serbia
and Macedonia followed some pressure on the Serbian church by the
In another sign of improved relations, the Serbian officials where
expected later in the day to make a brief visit across the Macedonian
border to attend ceremonies, organized by Macedonian authorities, of
the country's Aug. 2 "Statehood Day."