US Senator John McCain arrived in Belgrade on Monday where he met with with Serbian Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic.
Addressing reporters during a joint news conference after the meeting held in the Villa Mir in Belgrade, Vucic said that he and the US official had “a successful working lunch,” and added that their conversation “went in three directions”:
“First, the issue of maintaining peace and stability in the region. Second, our bilateral relations. Third, Serbia’s participation in global trends and our stances on important questions in the world.”
“We spoke about us investing much time and strength into preserving peace, about our efforts to continue as soon as possible the (Kosovo) dialogue in Brussels, and about building relations with Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania in the best possible way,” he said.
Vucic added that he and McCain also spoke about “peace operations, Serbia’s European road, mutual relations between the two countries, exercises and activities.”
“We had eight joint exercises in 2016, six or seven are planned for 2017, and over one hundred joint activities. That’s very fair cooperation,” he said.
According to Vucic, he repeated during today’s meeting that Serbia does not wish to join any military bloc.
“I thank McCain for the visit, he is one of the more important people in the US, and my thanks to him for showing concern for the Western Balkans. My thanks to him for not finding it difficult to hear somewhat different words in Serbia, than in other countries in the region,” Vucic concluded, stating that the US senator was “always welcome in Serbia.”
Vucic announced McCain’s visit during a news conference on Sunday, when he said the conversation would focus on “the position of Serbia, and about Kosovo and Metohija,” and also, Serbia’s “stance toward Syria, that is, about Serbia’s foreign policy orientation.”
He stressed that bilateral cooperation would “certainly be spoken about – because McCain is an influential senator whose word has a lot of weight in the US.”
Kosovo will be also be one of the topics, Vucic said, but added that “it is not easy to talk now, after such statements made by Daut Haradinaj and Hashim Thaci, and the calls on Albanians in Macedonia to take matters into their own hands.”
Earlier, Daut Haradinaj said that if his brother Ramush Haradinaj was extradited to Serbia, “not a single Serb would remain in Kosovo.”
Two World Wars Started Here
US Senator John McCain says he and Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic on Monday spoke about two world wars starting “in the region of Eastern Europe.”
Addressing a news conference after the meeting in Belgrade, McCain said that peace in Europe means stability in the US, and assured of his country’s firm support.
He said that upon returning to the US, he would tell his colleagues in the Senat, “the president, and the American people” that everything happening in Eastern Europe is “of vital importance for US national security.”
He congratulated Vucic on his recent victory in Serbia’s presidential elections, and on “economic reforms and progress on the path toward the EU,” saying that he looks forward to working with Vucic in order to make progress andd enable Serbia to join the EU, because Serbia is a force for reconciliation in Eastern Europe.”
McCain said he was optimistic about the importance of Serbia’s integration into the EU becoming “crystallized” over time, but added that he was “worried because of Russia’s behavior in the region and the attempt to overthrow the government in neighboring Montenegro.”
Another place where the US senator sees Russia’s “clear involvement” is the conflict in Syria, adding that he hoped “this kind” of behavior by Syria would stop – “and it’s clear that it happed in cooperation with Russia.”
McCain said he and Vucic also spoke about the importance of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue under EU’s auspices, where progress has ben made “thanks to President Tomislav Nikolic and PM Aleksandar Vucic,” and added that the US was “Serbia’s most active military partner” taking up about 90 percent of such activities.
McCain also thanked Serbia for participating in the “anti-IS coalition,” and for being “one of America’s most active partners in joint exercises.”
As a former pilot, the US official took the opportunity to offer his condolences to the families of two Serbian pilots who died on Friday when a military jet trainer crashed.
Asked to comment on the recent alleged chemical attack in Syria, he said that he “believes” the Russians knew about chemical weapons in Syria, and that his country will show them that “this kind of war crimes is unacceptable.”
“We will train those who are fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. First, the Russians should be banned from taking off from the areas from which these attacks were carried out, then it is necessary to hold peace talks so that Assad and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understand that they cannot win in this battlefield,” McCain has been quoted as saying.