Serbia won't get reparations for NATO bombing - ambassador

"If Serbia expects reparations for the 1999 bombing that is not something we will do, but we will continue to assist as before," says Michael Kirby.

Source: B92

The U.S. ambassador in Belgrade told B92 TV on Tuesday that since 2000, Serbia was given a lot of support, and that "in money alone that support is measured in billions of dollars."

"I think you should concentrate on the future, not the past. You can deal with the past, but if you spend a lot of time on it, you will never turn to the future. We are ready to help," said Kirby.

Another topic brought up in the talks show Kažiprst had to do with the past, namely, with war crimes committed in Kosovo, which the U.S. ambassador said had to be investigated.

According to the diplomat, Clint Williamson, who investigated the allegations from the Dick Marty report, is an experienced prosecutor, and said his country supported the establishment of a war crimes tribunal that would determine whether crimes happened and pass judgment if there was evidence.

Asked whether Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci could be investigated by this court, Kirby said:

"I'm sure Clint Williamson investigated wherever the evidence led, and that there were no restrictions. I really do not know whether Thaci was involved, but I'm sure that soon all the details will be published."

The Kosovo issue is a key to Serbia's path towards the EU, supported by the United States, and Kirby was asked to comment whether recognizing Kosovo was a requirement as far as EU officials were concerned:

"You would have to ask the EU, but in the fall 2012 Hillary Clinton was in Belgrade with Catherine Ashton and one of the topic was the normalization of relations, and there were no statements nor requirements that this means recognizing of Kosovo as an independent state. I do not see that something has changed there, but this is a question for Mr. (Michael) Davenport and the EU."

The ambassador added that, judging by the way the EU is now working, he would be "surprised" if that that became a requirement.

He also noted that Serbia would not join the EU for a long time and that "much can happen by 2020, " but that he did not think that "good relations" implied a recognition of independence.

He also commented on the new Serbian government and the expose presented in parliament by Aleksandar Vučić, and as he did in the previous days, stressed that Serbia would benefit if what the new head of government presented in his program were to be fulfilled.

Kirby said he saw the program as ambitious because the path that is necessary for Serbia represented "a major task."

The U.S. ambassador said changes in the judiciary were something that was important for the citizens of Serbia, but also for foreign investors.

Asked whether he had confidence that this part of the work would be done, Kirby said, "I certainly hope so."

He also touched on his decision to visit the SNS election headquarters on election night, and said this was "a sign of support to the Serbian people," who voted to give the party 158 seats in parliament.

When asked about the the position of sexual minorities and plans to hold a gay parade in Belgrade, Kirby said this was "an issue for Serbia," and added:

"I would like us to continue to build on the message of the prime minister that he wants Serbia to be a free and open society. Serbia has 30 ethnic groups, the list is long, you have many different religions, and you have the LGBT community."

According to him, "anyone can feel American in the U.S. regardless of whether they were born there, whether they're Catholic or Muslim, straight or gay," and that Serbia had "more of these multi-cultural motifs than many think."

"I think the rights of sexual minorities are a part of it," he said.

But Kirby pointed out that he though the Serbian government had to make its own decisions about the possibility of supporting a gay parade.

Asked about freedom of the media, Kirby said this subject was "talked about a lot in Serbia" and that he thought "the core of everything was economic freedom."

The diplomat pointed out that sorting out economic problems and creating better business conditions for advertisers was something that would help both individuals and the government, as well as the media because new possibilities and sources of funding would open up, which, he said, are now few.

Kirby also spoke about the N1 television outlet and a joint meeting with former CIA Director David Petraeus and Serbia's now Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, to say that it was "a new kind of investment for the United States," where instead of making priducts in Serbia and selling them abroad, the KKR private equity firm was now "investing in selling something to Serbs in Serbia and that is a big difference."

Kirby noted that while Petraeus in the past served as head of the CIA, his recent visit to Belgrade was in his new role with KKR.


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