BELGRADE (Reuters) -- The Serbian government said on November 20 it would file a counter lawsuit to the International Court of Justice against Croatia alleging genocide during the 1991-95 war.
The legal tussle, which follows Croatia's original lawsuit against Serbia on genocide charges, could worsen relations between the two countries that were once part of Yugoslavia before the wars of the 1990s.
The International Court of Justice ruled on November 18 it had jurisdiction to examine the genocide case against Serbia which was filed by Croatia in 1999.
Croatia accuses Serbia of being liable for the ethnic cleansing of Croats, including killing, torture, displacement and destruction of property. Serbia, in turn, says Croatia is responsible for ethnic cleansing and killing of Serbs, especially at the end of the war in 1995 when more than 200,000 Serbs were expelled.
"Croatia refused to take our hand in reconciliation," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic was quoted as telling the newspaper "Politika."
He referred to President Boris Tadic's apology to the Croatian people in 2007 as a symbolic gesture "that has opened a door to leave behind all that had happened in the past and to turn together towards the European future of the Western Balkans."
Both Croatia and Serbia hope to join the European Union, but with Croatia seen as far ahead in the process, a worsening of relations could complicate Belgrade's path to Brussels.
In another case in which Bosnia alleged genocide against Serbia, the International Court of Justice in 2007 cleared Belgrade of direct responsibility for genocide that took place in 1995 in Srebrenica but found it responsible for not preventing genocide.