According to different interpretations and accounts, the meeting between President Aleksandar Vucic and the U.S. High official Hoyt Brian Yee was “open and positive” or “open and tense”. Vucic and Yee, deputy assistant secretary of State, discussed the crucial issues of Belgrade-Pristina and Serbia-Russia relations, on Tuesday evening but did not comment on any of those after the meeting.
However, according to the press release on the President’s website, the U.S. diplomat has expressed concerns over the Serbian “balancing” between the West and Russia, as well as the Russian influence in the Western Balkans.
Vucic and Yee have also discussed “the importance of the freedom of expression and the responsibility for objective reporting based on facts. The American official has also stressed the importance of the opposition in a democratic society”.
Yee has urged resolution of both Bitici case and setting US embassy in Serbia on fire in 2008. Bitici brothers were three American-Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb police shortly after the end of the war in Kosovo 1999. Vucic has, according to press release, “very directly” answered to Yee’s remarks; the president will, as it was stated, reveal the content of the meeting “in the days to come”.
“Deep disagreement” over Kosovo
United States support the European path of Serbia, American ambassador Kyle Scott said today, adding that “challenges” on that path such as the improvement of the rule of law domain, media freedom and normalization of the relations with Kosovo still exist. “Without it, there will be no integration into Europe”, Scott said.
In his words, the meeting between Vucic and Yee was “open and positive”. Scott, who was present at the meeting, refrained from further comments.
Serbian media, however, have different interpretation of the meeting. “The open and tense meeting… could be summarized in two key points: the deep disagreement over the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and the extra pressure on Serbia, to put an end to close relations with Russia”, Vecernje novosti daily reported today.
From Washington’s standpoint, Russian insistence that Serbia should grant diplomatic immunity to Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis is “highly problematic”, Yee told Vucic, as stated by Vecernje novosti sources.
Vucic stated that Serbia “remains strategically orientated to the European integration”; however, the country would “keep developing friendly relations with Russia, but also China, India, the United Arab Emirates…”, president said, as stated in the account.
“You cannot sit on two chairs”
Earlier this week, speaking at the Serbian Economic Summit in Belgrade, Yee said: “The EU hopefuls should clearly demonstrate that they really want to become members. You cannot sit on two chairs, especially if those chairs are too far apart”, said Yee alluding to Serbian “balance” regarding its foreign policy.
The statement loudly echoed in Serbian media and provoked reactions by defense minister Aleksandar Vulin and labour minister Zoran Djordjevic. Vulin said that Yee’s “undiplomatic” statement represents “the greatest pressure so far”. “Throughout its history, Serbia was able to say ‘no’ to big ones”, Djordjevic said.
“The strongest attack on Serbian independence so far”, tabloid Informer, close to Vucic, commented today; Srpski telegraf, another pro-government tabloid, had this headline: “Three demands of CIA for Vucic”. “Vucic rebuffs Hoyt Yee’s ‘advice’ “, semi-state-owned daily Vecernje novosti claimed. Politika, another semi-state-owned daily, concluded: “Trump’s special intensifies pressure”…/IBNA