"NATO's bombing no obstacle to cooperation" - FM
With the signing of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), Serbia "entered a new phase in relations with NATO," said Ivica Dacic and Bratislav Gasic.Source: Tanjug
"Our neutrality is not called into question by this plan," Dacic, who serves as Serbia's foreign minister and deputy premier, told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
He said that "no one can change what happened 16 years ago when NATO bombed Serbia" - but that "it should not be an obstacle to building partnership relations in the future."
Stoltenberg, said Dacic, recently spoke with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, "so further development of relations with the alliance should be expected."
He said that he received guarantees from Stoltenberg that "no kind of Kosovo's armed forces will have access to the north of Kosovo,", recalling that the previous NATO chief gave similar guarantees.
Dacic said that IPAP "opens the possibility of cooperation between Serbia and NATO in many fields, including science, public diplomacy and participation in international peacekeeping operations."
"These, of course, are not combat operations," remarked Dacic, and explained that it means cooperation in rescue operations during natural disasters.
He said that NATO was "also important for Serbia because of KFOR and the support to the Brussels agreement," and recalled that the KFOR commander recently met with the Serbian army chief.
Dacic said that his meeting with Stoltenberg touched on many issues, "including relations with Russia and Serbia's role as chairman of the OSCE."
Gasic, who serves as defense minister, was also in Brussels yesterday where he said that IPAP was "another step in the cooperation between Serbia and NATO."
"This is the highest level of cooperation with NATO that a country that is not a member can achieve," said Gasic.
He explained that the agreement "will assist in the reform of the armed forces of Serbia, but also open up new opportunities for the Serbian defense industry."
Gasic "stressed the importance of developing relations with NATO and KFOR as part of maintaining security in Kosovo."
While at the NATO headquarters, Dacic and Gasic also participated in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
During the talks they discussed further promotion of cooperation between Serbia and NATO through Partnership for Peace, the current situation in Kosovo and Metohija, cooperation in the region as well as "new security challenges," the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
According to this, Dacic "informed his interlocutors in NATO that Serbia has defined a priority area of cooperation in the future: further development of political dialogue, participation in PfP, Building Integrity, and Science for Peace and Security programs, crisis management and planning in civil emergencies and public diplomacy."
Dacic "particularly stressed the importance of a maintained presence of KFOR in Kosovo and Metohija and stressed that the success of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as the implementation of what has been agreed, was directly related to the preservation of stability and security in Kosovo."
In this respect NATO's guarantees "about the presence of the so-called Kosovo security forces in northern Kosovo" are very important, Tanjug quoted the statement.
Speaking about "new security challenges" Dacic said that Serbia within its means and in accordance with the resources available "supports the fight against all forms of terrorism and radicalism, including the Islamic State."
Dacic informed the NATO officials he met with "our key foreign policy priorities" notably the importance attached to membership in the EU and developing of regional cooperation, and presented the activities and current results of Serbia's chairmanship of the OSCE.