"NATO has excellent cooperation with Serbia"

NATO has excellent cooperation with Serbia, and respects its decision to not seek membership in the Alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

Source: Tanjug
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He made the remarks during his address to the European Parliament (EP) on Monday.

"Serbia is a sovereign country and has the right to make decisions regarding its future on its own," Stoltenberg told MEPs when Croatian MEP Tonino Picula asked him to comment on the joint exercises of the Serbian and Russian armed forces "close to the Croatian border."

"Serbia also holds military exercises with NATO, and (Serbian) Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, whom I have recently met, has told me that he wants more exercises with us and I welcome that," the NATO secretary general said.

In his speech to the EP, Stoltenberg said that the cooperation between NATO and the EU in the Western Balkans is a good example of joint efforts.

"In the Western Balkans, we see an excellent example of the cooperation between our two organizations," he said, mentioning the missions of KFOR and EULEX as a good model for complementary work.

Belgrade and Pristina back the presence of NATO troops within KFOR, while through EULEX, the EU helps strengthen the rule of law, he said.

"This shows how we can complement each other and strengthen security, not only in the region, but in entire Europe," he said.

"Least interested"

Of all the countries in the Western Balkans, Serbia is "least interested in joining NATO," because "the 1999 NATO intervention remains a fresh and painful memory," Serbian Parliament’s Security Services Control Committee Chairman Momir Stojanovic said during a panel discussion on the impact of Euro-Atlantic integration on the region Monday.

Stojanovic said that Serbia had never officially said that it was interested in NATO membership, although it had been a member of the Partnership for Peace program since 2006.

He said that the 1999 NATO intervention remained a fresh and painful memory, reinforced by the feelings of injustice stemming from the fact that many NATO members had recognized Kosovo independence.

Stojanovic, however, said that cooperation between the Serbian Armed Forces and NATO was ahead of the country's official policy and general public opinion.

"When it comes to global and regional security challenges, risks and threats, we have excellent cooperation between our intelligence-security services and the corresponding sectors of NATO member states and that cooperation is takes place continuously,” said Stojanovic.

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