NATO "regrets civilian victims" of its attacks on Serbia

Jens Stoltenberg said in Belgrade on Friday that NATO "regrets for every lost civilian life in the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999."

Source: Tanjug
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NATO's secretary general made this statement after his meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and according to Tanjug, in this way "repeated the message that he sent from Budva (Montenegro)" earlier this year.

Stoltenberg also noted that "several years passed since the last visit of a NATO secretary general to Serbia" and added that he knew there were "strong feelings" in the country when it comes to the western military alliance.

"Our intervention in 1999 was not against the Serbian people, it was about stopping the unacceptable actions of the Milosevic regime. The NATO intervention ended several years of wars in the Balkans. During the operation, we did everything to prevent the loss of innocent lives, and every lost life of civilians was a tragedy which we deeply regret,"said he.

Stoltenberg also "offered his condolences to the families on both sides of the conflict" and "those who have lost their loved ones."

"I am here today in connection with the new beginning of relations between NATO and Serbia. This is more important to us than ever because we are faced with many common challenges," said Stoltenberg, "stressing that the cooperation is of mutual benefit."

He "reminded that the partnership plan offers many opportunities for cooperation and that NATO is ready to launch a new fund to help Serbia destroy 200 tons of surplus ammunition," Tanjug said in its report.

Stoltenberg then "repeated that cooperation is beneficial for both sides," and that he learned about "the closeness" of relations between citizens of Norway and Serbia are, and also "feels a personal connection to Serbia" because he spent his childhood in Belgrade.

The NATO chief said he deeply believed in the potential of the relationship between the military alliance and Serbia, respecting the latter's policy of neutrality, and "looks forward to the development of relations and the political and practical cooperation between NATO and Serbia."

According to him, "Serbia plays an important role in building security in the Balkans and around the world, as well as welcoming thousands of refugees, but also presiding over the OSCE and sending troops to UN and EU missions."

He also pointed out that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is "very important for all of us," and "encouraged its continuation."

The dialogue, he said, is the only way forward, and welcomed "the important steps that have been achieved in promoting Serbia's cooperation with its neighbors."

Aleksandar Vucic addressed a joint news conference to say that "Serbia is a sovereign and militarily neutral country" that will continue to promote good cooperation with NATO.

Vucic said Serbia "will adhere to its parliamentary declaration and decisions on military neutrality - but has a broad framework for promoting cooperation with NATO."

"It contributes to the fight against terrorism, support in the migrant crisis, preservation of regional stability, better training of soldiers and policemen, but also much greater safety and security of our people in Kosovo and Metohija, which is the most important," said Vucic.

He noted that NATO and Serbia "do not have to agree on certain issues from the past" but that he is "certain that there is a good future in our relations."

"We have no hostilities and Serbia does not want to make enemies out of friends, and we were in one period experts for these things. Although I do not think that Serbia was to blame for what happened in 1999 in any way, not even her leadership, but these are our different assessments of the past," "said Vucic.

While in Belgrade Stoltenberg also announced that KFOR today lifted the restrictions over a part of Serbia's airspace, which were introduced in 1999. According to Tanjug, this concerns a 25km-zone stretching into central Serbia from the administrative line with Kosovo.

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