Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's president, pauses during an interview at his office in Belgrade, Serbia, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ BLOOMBERG/ OLIVER BUNIC
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's president, pauses during an interview at his office in Belgrade, Serbia, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ BLOOMBERG/ OLIVER BUNIC

Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic was vexed by his treatment during World War I centenary commemorations in France, where Kosovo’s leader was placed closer than him to other global dignitaries, media reported. 

Sunday’s Armistice commemorations in Paris brought together leaders from numerous countries affected by the conflict, but also fanned current tensions in Serbia’s case.

Newspapers published photographs showing leaders watching the ceremonies, including Hashim Thaci, president of the contested territory of Kosovo, and Serbia’s Vucic.

Thaci was behind the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and the US, while Vucic was placed in a separate stand opposite.

“You can imagine how I felt,” Vucic was quoted as saying by Serbian media, adding that he had “a lump in the throat”.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing before me, knowing the sacrifice that the Serb people made in World War I.”

Historians say that Serbia suffered more casualties as a proportion of its population in World War I than any other country.

France President Emmanuel Macron hosted US President Donald Trump and Russia President Vladimir Putin among other leaders at the ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the war.

Vucic was quoted as saying: “I had to decide in an instant what to do: whether to do something or do nothing, stay still and keep quiet so that I could shake hands with Trump and Putin.”

He said he thought he had made the right decision to stay put, in order to have an opportunity “to talk about Serbia”.

Tensions remain high between Serbia and Kosovo, two decades after a war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognised by leading Western powers but condemned by Belgrade.

Vucic promised a “grand” welcome for Macron when he visits Serbia in December.

AFP