Serbia should back Ukraine's integrity - U.S. ambassador

The U.S. respects the traditional friendship between Serbia and Russia, U.S. Ambassador Michael Kirby told Beta in an interview, the agency reported.

Source: Beta, Tanjug

However, he added, the world will not welcome a lack of condemnation of endangering of Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Kirby pointed out that it was up to the Serbian authorities to decide what is the interest of the state, and based on that make their decisions.

"Serbia said loudly that it respect the territorial integrity of all member states of the United Nations, but officials have never added a sentence which indicates that it includes Ukraine, as well as all its territory," noted Kirby.

This diplomat also commented on the business climate in Serbia to say it was "good" and that as the country moves closer to the European Union it will be more attractive to American investors.

He added that it would be good if Serbia appointed a new ambassador to Washington as soon as possible, and that it was important to choose the right person for this demanding job.

"I am aware that Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and President Tomislav Nikolić are thinking intensely about who to appoint as ambassador to the United States. This is an important position, as the ambassador must be a person who will best represent Serbia in Washington and represent its interests," said Kirby.

The U.S. diplomat believes that it would be good solve the murder case of the Bytyqi brothers as soon as possible, but said he does not expect that will happen.

"This case should be viewed also from a broader perspective. There is a large number of people killed in the region, and the killers have not yet been held accountable. The fact that the perpetrators of such acts are not detected or prosecuted is a big problem for all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, because the families of all those killed wish and wait to see justice served," said Kirby.

He added that he would support the adoption of a law that would prevent Serbian citizens from joining wars abroad, which has been mentioned in public, the news agency reported.

"Many countries are facing the same problem, because people who participate in battlefields get accustomed to murder, suicide bombers, and similar things which they can bring to their countries. We in the United States faced terrorist attacks, they had them and England and Spain, so it is certain that Serbia wants to avoid that," he said, according to Beta.

The diplomat pointed out that "such a law makes sense, but must treat equally those who go to Syria, Ukraine or any other country."

Kirby also told the news agency's bureau in Novi Pazar that it would be presumptuous to have too high expectations from the new government toward the Sandžak region "where a minority constitutes a majority."

"Serbia must be inclusive, must accept and assist minority peoples. In Sandžak the economic situation is difficult, but it is also bad in some other parts of Serbia. Objectives of this government are membership in the EU, creating conditions for the rule of law, respect for human rights and creating jobs. These are the things where they have our support and I think their implementation will create progress in Sandžak, as well as in the rest of Serbia," concluded Kirby.

"Surprising sentence"

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić is "surprised by U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby's sentence" the government said in a statement on Wednesday, Tanjug reported.

It concerns Kirby's remark that Serbian officials, while saying they respected the territorial integrity of all internationally recognized countries, did not say this included Ukraine and all of its territory.

Vučić's cabinet stated it was "informing the public and the U.S. ambassador, otherwise a great friend of Serbia, that President of the Government Aleksandar Vučić personally several dozen times clearly and unequivocally reiterated the position about respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and even Crimea, as a part of the Ukrainian state."

The statement further pointed toward "the previous stances the premier gave in interviews and statements for domestic and foreign media, where he spoke about respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Later in the day, the U.S. embassy in Belgrade issued a statement of its own to say that the ambassador spoke in error, and that they regretted the mistake.

"The fact is that both Premier Aleksandar Vučić and First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić in their statements supported the territorial integrity of all UN member countries, confirming specifically the support of Serbia to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea. We welcome such statements," said the embassy.

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