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French Ambassador Offers Apology To Serbia Over WWI Ceremony

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (file photo)

The French ambassador in Belgrade has offered an apology to Serbia after President Aleksandar Vucic expressed frustration about the way he was treated during World War I commemorations in Paris.

Ambassador Frederic Mondoloni issued the apology on November 12, a day after Vucic joined dozens of world leaders in Paris to attend a ceremony commemorating the centenary of the armistice that ended the war in 1918.

At the November 11 gathering, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was placed behind the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, while Vucic was in a separate stand on the opposite side.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing before me, knowing the sacrifice that the Serb people made in World War I," Serbian media quoted Vucic as saying following the event.

Historians say that Serbia suffered more losses as a proportion of its population in the war than any other country embroiled in the conflict.

Tensions remain high between Pristina and Belgrade, 10 years after Kosovo's ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.

Mondoloni told Prva TV that the seating arrangement during the Paris ceremony was a “regrettable mistake” and asked Vucic and the Serb people to accept an apology."

"Serbia lost almost a third of its population in the [war]," he said. "I don't know what happened [in Paris].”

Historians say Serbia lost nearly 1.25 million soldiers and civilians in World War I, or 28 percent of the prewar population. About 62 percent of the dead were men aged 18-55.

Vucic later thanked Mondoloni in a tweet for “his wonderful words and the respect he showed for Serbian casualties.”

With reporting by B92