President responded to US official "in very direct way"
Aleksandar Vucic will in the coming days communicate the answers he gave to US State Department official Hoyt Brian Yee's objections, made during their meeting.Source: Beta, Tanjug
This was announced in a statement on Tuesday evening.
The conversation between the Serbian president and the US diplomat, held in the early afternoon the same day, was "very open," the statement said.
Yee commended economic reforms and the fiscal consolidation carried out by Vucic's government and continued by PM Ana Brnabic's government, and expressed his optimism about continued progress in the region in the coming period, the president's press office announced.
Yee - who is US deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs - "expressed his concern over the perception that Serbia was with one foot on the path towards the EU, and on the other toward an alliance with Russia."
He also "expressed concern over Russia's influence in the region," the statement said.
The US praised Serbia's progress toward reaching its strategic goal membership in the EU, and stressed that further progress in the areas of rule of law and freedom of the media, as well as the normalization of relations with Kosovo would be decisive on Serbia's road to EU membership.
The two interlocutors discussed the importance of continued dialogue between, as Yee said, Serbia and Kosovo, the statement continued.
Yee also stressed the importance of internal dialogue.
The two interlocutors discussed the freedom of expression, as well as responsibility for objective fact-based reporting. The US official also stressed the importance of the existence of an opposition in a democratic society.
Yee advocated the solving of the Bytyqi brothers murder case, dating back to 1999, and the 2008 torching of the US embassy in Belgrade, the statement said.
"President Vucic carefully listened to the US representative and responded to his remarks in a very direct way, and the content of President Vucic's response will be published in the coming days," the statement concluded.
After the meeting on Tuesday, that lasted an hour and a half, the president's cabinet told Tanjug that the conversation was "absolutely open and honest."
"A press release will show what Yee said at the meeting, and we will find out what President Vucic said if the US side is willing to communicate that," a source in the office said after the meeting, also attended by US Ambassador to Belgrade Kyle Scott.
The US State Department official on Monday participated at the 17th Serbian Economic Summit in Belgrade, and caused a series of reactions with his statements, including that Serbia "cannot sit on two chairs if it wants to join the EU."
Yee on Monday also said the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis should not be granted diplomatic status.
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin reacted to all this strongly earlier on Tuesday, saying that this was "by far the most difficult public and very undiplomatic pressure exerted on our country and on our right to decide independently."
Vulin also remarked that he did not know what the position of the state leadership would be, but that he personally believes the comments in question did not come from either a friend, or a man who respects Serbia, "and our policy and the right to decide."
After this, media reported that Tanja Miscevic, who heads Serbia's team in accession negotiations with the EU, said Yee's statements were "interpreted differently" and also, "taken out of context."
Miscevic added that Serbia was "not sitting on two chairs" but instead has "a clear strategic determination and that is, the EU."