Stoltenberg: Close partnership between NATO and Serbia

NEWS 10.08.2022 11:41
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Source: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO fully respects the sovereign right of countries to choose their own political and security arrangements, noting that this is the fundamental principle of European security.

In an interview with the Podgorica daily Vijesti Stoltenberg welcomed Montenegro’s contribution to NATO’s constant efforts to protect the Alliance’s population and territory as well as its contribution to the stability of the Western Balkans, and added that Montenegro can always count on NATO in preserving its security.

Asked about NATO’s expansion in the next ten years, Stoltenberg said that NATO leaders reiterated in Madrid that NATO’s open door policy remains in place.

Commenting the construction of a naval base in the Adriatic Sea that NATO is negotiating with Albania and other potential investments and deployment of troops in the region, Stoltenberg said NATO’s new Strategic Concept, adopted at the Madrid Summit, once again confirmed the Western Balkans’ strategic importance for the Alliance.

NATO will continue to promote stability, security and cooperation in the region, including the day-to-day efforts of KFOR, of our headquarters in Sarajevo and of our office in Belgrade, Stoltenberg said, adding that security and stability in the Western Balkans is important for NATO and for peace and stability in Europe.

Stoltenberg said NATO and Serbia have had a close partnership for years, which is based on political dialogue and practical cooperation, with full respect for Serbia’s policy of military neutrality.

The political dialogue between NATO and Serbia takes various forms, it includes contacts between Serbian officials and NATO and well-established relations between the KFOR commander and Serbian chief of staff, Stoltenberg said. What makes these relations possible is a constructive spirit and mutual respect, which should continue, he added.

Asked if he was concerned about Kosovo’s long-term stability, Stoltenberg said he discussed with the Pristina and Belgrade leaderships the tensions in Kosovo and added that the two sides must remain clam, avoid unilateral actions and constructively engage in the EU-mediated dialogue.

n line with its UN mandate, the KFOR mission is closely monitoring the situation and is prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardized. Our mission is focused on ensuring a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all the people of Kosovo, Stolternberg said.

The NATO Secretary General said the Alliance continues to fully support the EU-mediated dialogue and calls on all sides to continue negotiations because they are of key importance for regional peace and security.