Diplomatic Row Between Serbia and Macedonia Thwarted, No War in Sight

Front page headlines of the Macedonian daily Sloboden Pečat during the diplomatic crisis between Serbia and Macedonia. August 22 (left): “So, we get to spy on them for once!” August 23 (center): “Skopje calmly responds to Belgrade provocations: Brothers Serbs, we love you!”; August 24 (right): “Vučić and Zaev pledge over the phone: We'll build friendly relations and lead dialogue about the differences.”

Two days after it began, the diplomatic row between Serbia and Macedonia has seemingly halted.

Tensions defused after a telephone call between the Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić who issued a joint announcement pledging to solve all misunderstandings through dialogue. Serbia announced the gradual return of their staff to the embassy in Skopje.

The front pages of Serbian pro-government media, which had screamed “War!” and blamed Macedonians for “backstabbing,” have taken a less inflammatory tone, and then dropped the subject altogether. On social media, the response to the media frenzy was almost unanimous across the region, with citizens expressing their indignation with warmongering.

The most important thing is that the people of Serbia and Macedonia REFUSED to be drawn into the quarrel!

Both us and Serbians worked our fingers to the bone retweeting and following up with each other these two days. What I want to say is that nobody can unite you like common idiots!

Citizens across the region have praised the leading Macedonian daily “Slobodon Pecat” for its proper response to the warmongering rhetoric of Serbian tabloids. The August 23 front page displayed anti-Macedonian front pages along with a large headline in Serbian declaring “Brothers Serbs, we love you!” written in Macedonian Cyrillic.

Many Twitter users also continued mocking the warmongering, as well as pointing out the similarities between the populist regimes of Vučić and former Macedonian Prime Minister Gruevski (2006-2017).

Macedonians have reached the third place in the list of the biggest Serbian enemies.
Behind the promaja and roaming charges,
ahead of the Croats and soap.

My weapons in the war against the Serbs would be yellow rakija and lamb meat. For their part they can bring kaymak and pork rind. I would fight such a war for three days.

One Serbian Twiter user referred to the ‘Colorful Revolution’ movement that helped bring down the authoritarian regime in Macedonia:

BTW Macedonians, do you have some of that paint left? We have some painting to do by the New Year.

‘Case closed’ — not likely!

The diplomatic crisis has unleashed additional information regarding the circumstances surrounding the presence of Serbian intelligence operative Goran Živaljević in the Macedonian Parliament during the ‘Bloody Thursday’ attack of April 27 when he made a selfie.

In an August 22 TV interview on Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), Serbian President Vučić explained that their agent was there with the permission of the highest executive authorities in Macedonia. However, VMRO-DPMNE, former ruling party of Macedonia at the time, issued a denial claiming Vučić was not telling the truth.

All [top government officials] were inaccessible [for telephone contact] during the premeditated attack on the Parliament. Živaljević ASKED and received permission from the executive authorities to enter. When exactly and by whom?

The next day, RTS aired a statement by Živaljević himself claiming he was allowed to attend by a security adviser to the Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov. Ivanov gained his position thanks to VMRO-DPMNE and holds direct command over the Intelligence Agency.

Ivanov's cabinet then issued a denial of their own, claiming the Serbian agent did not ask for permission but called them later to secure an alibi. They insist “the case regarding Mr. Živaljević’s unauthorized stay in Parliament is closed after an agreement was reached between the services,” yet it seems the case is anything but closed.

Calls for a thorough inquiry into all aspects of ‘Bloody Thursday’ have intensified in recent days. Citizens ask for an investigation that may lead to charges of high treason and/or impeachment of officials colluding with foreign secret services during that critical night in April when Macedonia itself almost slid into civil war.

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