Stoltenberg: NATO respects the security arrangements that Serbia chooses

Jens Stoltenberg at 2018 NATO Summit; Photo: NATO

BELGRADE – NATO fully respects Serbia’s military neutrality policy, and at the same time NATO and Serbia have been close partners for 14 years, whose partnership is based on close political dialogue and practical cooperation, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Kurir newspaper.

Stoltenberg pointed out that Serbia and NATO, with the excellent work of the Military Liaison Office in Belgrade and cooperation with the authorities, have built close cooperation in a number of areas, such as civil protection in emergency situations, including floods and forest fires.

“In that regard, in 2018, together with President Vučić, I had the opportunity to open in Serbia a large exercise to manage the consequences of emergency situations called Serbia 2018, our largest exercise ever in the field of emergency response”, said Stoltenberg.

He added that NATO is helping Serbia to develop its security forces and institutions.

“NATO is training Serbian soldiers for international peacekeeping missions, and in that 20 years period we have invested million euros so that we can help Serbia destroy over 230 tons of obsolete ammunition,” the NATO Secretary General pointed out.

Asked whether NATO considers the fact that Serbia has significantly equipped its army in recent years, mainly with weapons from Russia and China, Stoltenberg said that Serbia is a sovereign country and that NATO respects the security arrangements that Serbia chooses.

“No, we don’t mind. Serbia is a sovereign country and we fully respect the security arrangements that it chooses,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the defence procurement is the national decision.

He explained that when conducting procurement, it is important to pay attention to the total costs related to the main lifespan of the equipment, as they can be large.

“NATO and Serbia are close partners. We have already developed excellent cooperation in the field of defense and security, in which we are helping the Serbian Army to strengthen its capacities”,  Stoltenberg concluded.