Defense minister meets U.S. counterpart

WASHINGTON -- Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac on Tuesday met with his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates in Washington, Beta reports.

Šutanovac, Gates in Washington on Tuesday (Beta)
Šutanovac, Gates in Washington on Tuesday (Beta)

He said afterward that it was one of the most important encounters since he assumed the helm of the ministry and that the visit should improve the overall relations between Serbia and the U.S., and not only in the area of defense.

"It is well-known that in the last decade of the last century we had a lot of problems, but it is also well-known that in the last few years the ministry has been making big steps to stabilize relations between Serbia and the U.S.," Šutanovac told Serbian and American journalists after meeting with Gates at the Pentagon.

He said a recent visit by U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden had shown that "there is respect" for Serbia overseas, which is very important, and added that he and Gates had agreed that defense relations were among the best aspects of the cooperation between the two countries.

Šutanovac reminded that the Serbian Army had several dozen officers at prestigious U.S. military academies, and stated that he and Gates had mentioned continuing to exchange experiences in education and training.

The Serbian minister and American secretary also discussed further Serbian Army participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, while Šutanovac acquainted Gates with the participation of a Serbian Army medical team in a peacekeeping mission in Chad and the desire to see Serbian armed forces in other missions with "partners from Europe."

On the first day of his visit to the U.S., Šutanovac laid a wreath at the monument to the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. While in Washington, he is to have several meetings at the Senate, Congress and White House, and in Ohio with representatives of the Ohio National Guard.

Šutanovac is in the U.S. at the invitation of Gates, the first such request to a Serbian defense minister in 25 years.