PM says Serbia will reduce dependency on Russian gas

Aleksandar Vucic has told AP in an interview that his government "will accept U.S. calls to reduce dependency on Russian gas."

Source: B92, Beta, AP

The agency, that interviewed the Serbian prime minister during his visit to Albania on Wednesday, ran the article under the headline, "Under U.S. pressure, Serbia ready to reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies."

AP said that "in a major policy shift, the Serbian prime minister said his country will accept U.S. calls to reduce dependency on Russian gas by adding an American-backed pipeline that would bring gas to Europe from Azerbaijan."

"Regarding energy safety, energy security, we are ready to diversify the sources of gas for Serbia, which is very important for our American friends as well," Vucic said.

The news agency said that the United States "has been encouraging Balkan and other states to move forward with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will take Azeri gas from the Caspian Sea to Italy, rather than setting its hopes on another project that would pipe Russian gas through Turkey."

Serbia is further described by AP as "a traditional Russian ally that wants to join the European Union," and one that "has already expressed interest in the Moscow-backed pipeline project dubbed Turkish Stream" - adding that "supporting the alternative American-backed pipeline is a major policy shift by Serbia which could be viewed with unease in Moscow."

The report also states that "the West has accused Russia of using gas as a tool to increase its political influence over countries like Serbia."

Vucic and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke in early February on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, when, according to the media, the latter "offered alternatives" to Russia's scrapped South Stream pipeline.

It was reported at the time that these alternatives included gas supplies either from the U.S. or from Azerbaijan.

A debate ensued in Serbia on the cost of gas that would be supplied to Serbia "under such a scenario."

Vucic, who is due to visit the Unites States on June 1, also told AP that Serbia's policy "is not about balancing," and added, "our strategic goal is EU path and we are very firm on our EU path. Yes, on the other hand, we would like to preserve good relationship with Russia."

Serbia, the agency noted "refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over its policies in Ukraine," while "some Western officials have urged Serbia to make up its mind on where it wants to go - closer to Russia or the EU."

"What's wrong with that?" he asked. "I don't see it, you know? We don't speak about taking or choosing sides, our side is our path to EU, our side is (the interest of) Serbia," Vucic was quoted as saying, and adding:

"I was saying it in front of Vladimir Putin at a press conference, very publicly, very openly. Can you mention another guy who said that very openly like I did in front of Vladimir Putin?"

"Washington of course is enormously important and we hope that they'll support our EU way and they'll also support our economic reforms, which is very important for our country," Vucic concluded.

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