Belgrade, October 14, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Serbia is a strong, reliable, and stable partner, said James Appathurai, Deputy assistant to secretary-general of NATO for political affairs and security policy
He talked to B92 about Serbia’s membership in NATO, as well as the Russian influence in our country.
Recently, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Petr Pavel warned about a new conflict in the Balkans due to the influence of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin on Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, which Serbia understood as a threat.
Appathurai said that nothing that General Pavel had said warned of any conflicts in the region.
“It was just a mistranslation. We need to keep track of possible tensions in the region. We talked about the visit of your Prime Minister to NATO headquarters, and the first thing we want to hear is the security assessment of the situation here. We are interested in your relations with Croatia, the migrant crisis, and so on. We did not see any potential conflict here, and General Pavel never said anything along those lines,” Appathurai said.
When asked about his personal opinion on the situation in the region, he said that things – if we looked at the last 20 years – were generally moving in the right direction.
“I watched as Serbian and Albanian prime ministers talked with each other… Difficult issues are raised again, including Kosovo, but there’s a political dialogue and we are pleased with it. Serbia is approaching the European Union and this is a wonderful thing; reforms are good for Serbia, but we have seen fluctuations in the relations. As for the migrant crisis, Serbia definitely plays a constructive role,” Appathurai pointed out.
He noted that it was possible for Serbia to join the European Union without becoming a member of NATO.
“And vice versa. These things are not linked by default. The following steps will not be drastic, we want to build relationships step by step. We have continuity when it comes to good relations both with this government and the previous ones. We are working on practical things. We want to fund a variety of programs here and we want people to see that,” Appathurai said.
The consequences of the NATO aggression in 1999 seem to have been left to resolve themselves on their own. When asked how can NATO get closer to the people of Serbia, Appathurai noted that so far a lot of work had been done on mutual cooperation and trust.
“We all remember 1999… Your Foreign Minister has proposed some programs, and we hope to address them in more detail when your Prime Minister visits our headquarters in the US,” Appathurai briefly responded.
Has said that he is not worried by Russia’s influence in the Balkans.
“Of course there is a Russian influence, but it’s not slowing down Serbia’s clear commitment to the EU. Of course, we are closely monitoring Russian activities here, and I believe they’re keeping an eye on ours. We want the countries in the region to make their own decisions – no matter which side they choose – and as long as they have independence, we’re completely fine with that,” Appathurai added.