MOSCOW – President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović stated that she supports NATO’s expansion in the region, but that each country should decide for itself whether it wants to join the Alliance.
In an interview for Moscow’s “Komersant”, she said that every state should decide on NATO membership, that she “respects the will of those who refuse it” and that Croatia will provide political support and assistance in meeteing the criteria that are necessary for NATO accession.
She has also emphasized that this process is not directed against Russia.
“I want to send a message to the Russians: NATO enlargement is in no way directed against Russia, and we do not see Russia as an adversary”, Grabar-Kitarović said, adding that she believes that the Euro-Atlantic integration of all the countries of Southeastern Europe “is a necessary condition for peace and stability in region”.
According to her, this would create a space “where we can sit at a table and talk before problems turn into a mutual aggression”.
Croatian President has reminded that her country is a member of the EU and NATO, and that solidarity and acting as a member of one family is expected from it, but that, at the same time, this does not exclude the relations between Russia and Croatia or their common interests.
“I cannot say that I can agree on everything with Russian partners. But, at the end of the line, we are conducting a sincere, open discussion on issues that have not reached a consensus. And we are trying, where we can, to find a common position”, said Grabar-Kitarović.
She has stated that dialogue with Russia is necessary, because it is a large country without which world affairs cannot be resolved, such as the conflict in Syria, and that Russia plays an important role in Southeast Europe, because it is one of the countries that is guarantor of the Dayton Agreement.
“For us, it is important that Russia supports the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we continue to work together to stabilise that country, which has nearly a thousand kilometers of a common border with Croatia. Croats are one of the three contituent nations, and if they seceed, it can end with the destabilisation of the entire region”, said Grabar-Kitarović.
She has expresed hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Croatia and assessed that this visit will bring benefits to the entire region, and has reminded that she has already invited Putin last year during her stay in Sochi, and that she has reiterated her invitation in Moscow.
“It would be the first official visit of the Russian president to Croatia, and I think that now is the right time for it”, Grabar-Kitarović said.