BRUSSELS – Serbia is an exporter of stability in the region, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting with Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic Wednesday.

NATO respects Serbia’s military neutrality, Stoltenberg said, expressing regret over the deaths of the victims of NATO’s 1999 air campaign, when it bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

“Serbia is at the heart of the Balkan region, which is at the heart of Europe. Serbia contributes in many different ways to regional stability and to international stability,” Stoltenberg said, noting that he had an excellent meeting with Vucic, who he said had also had an excellent first meeting with the Atlantic Council.

“The purpose and the aim of the NATO air campaign back in 1999 was to protect civilians and we did so. The loss of innocent lives was a tragedy and I deeply regret it,” he said.