Montenegro and Serbia’s prime ministers met in Belgrade amid strained relations but glossed over the disputes that have seen sharp exchanges between the two countries’ politicians in recent years.

Montenegrin and Serbian Prime Ministers Zdravko Krivokapic and Ana Brnabic said on Wednesday that relations between the two countries could be improved, but that they were not going to discuss their disputes on Krivokapic’s first official trip to Belgrade.

Krivokapic, who was making his first visit to Serbia since new Montenegrin government came to office last December, Krivokapic said that the two neighbours take measured steps towards mutually beneficial relations.

“Unfortunately, there were poison-arrow messages coming through the media, which no one needs. We need to forget what happened and look for areas that connect us. Let’s not touch on the disputed points at this moment and focus on the economy,” Krivokapic told media at a press conference in Belgrade.

Montenegro’s former government had disputes with the Serbian authorities related to the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serb minority in the country. Belgrade accused it of anti-Serb politics, while it accused Serbia of political interference in Montenegro.

Even after the opposition blocs ousted the Democratic Party of Socialists’ government last year, the new government has failed to improve relations with Serbia and resolve disputes between the two countries.

It refused to reverse a decision to expel Serbian ambassador Vladimir Bozovic, who the Democratic Party of Socialists’ government declared persona non grata for his allegedly unacceptable statements about Montenegrin history and statehood.

In June this year, Serbian officials were furious when the Montenegrin parliament adopted a resolution recognising the Srebrenica massacres by Bosnian Serb forces as genocide. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claimed that the resolution “leaves a stigma on an entire nation”.

Brnabic said on Wednesday that the two premiers decided not to tackle such disputes during Krivokapic’s first official visit.

“Some issues are not raised at the first meetings. I believe this will be resolved in time,” Brnabic said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also met Krivokapic and called for the stabilisation of relations between the two countries. He said that they should also improve their economic cooperation.

“The stabilisation of relations and their overall improvement can occur if there is a willingness to do so on both sides, with mutual respect and consideration of common needs and interests,” Vucic said in a press release after the meeting.

Brnabic apologised for a diplomatic protocol violation during Krivokapic’s arrival, when the Serbian Agriculture Minister Branislav Nedimovic wore jeans to welcome the Montenegrin premier. On Tuesday, Montenegrin media and the opposition said that Nedomovic’s attire was a diplomatic scandal and an insult to Krivokapic.

“Nedimovic often breaks the dress code as it’s not something that is especially important to him. I understand protocols, but you also have to understand people’s private preferences. There was no malice,” Brnabic said.

In 2006, Montenegro broke with Serbia and declared independence, becoming a sovereign state once again for the first time since the end of World War I.

From 1918 to 2006, Montenegro had been in a union with Serbia, as a member of the Yugoslav kingdom, then as part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and finally as Serbia and Montenegro.