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News 13 Dec 16

Dacic Defends Serbian Arms Deal With Russia

Serbia's Foreign Minister hailed an arms deal with Russia, dismisses potential EU opposition to it, and launches a stinging attack on Croatia, accusing it of building up weapons for an attack on Serbia.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (on the left) and his Serbian colleague Ivica Dacic (on the right). Photo: Beta/AP/ Darko Vojnovic

The foreign ministers of Serbia and Russia, Ivica Dacic and Sergey Lavrov, on Monday said an arms deal should be finalized on December 21 when Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is in Moscow.

“Serbia has asked Russia to donate arms, including MiG 29 planes. Since we have asked for them as donations, Serbia will pay only for the adaptation of those arms for Serbia's needs,” Dacic said, adding that adverse reactions from the European Union concerning the deal with Russia did not worry him.

“When Croatia get donations [of weapons] from NATO there is no reaction. Who do they [the EU] think Croatia would use those launchers against? Rome, Budapest or Vienna? No, they are for Serbia,” Dacic said.

“No one can attack Serbia or put the [the Bosnian Serb-led entity] Republika Srpska in jeopadry without an appropriate reaction from Belgrade,” he added.

Dacic repeated that Serbia had a firm, steady relationship with Russia and that Serbia’s first address in case of a crisis was Moscow, not America.

“I would love to address to US Secretary of State John Kerry. But how could I when Victoria Nuland said the US has been investing in Kosovo's independence for the last 20 years,” Dacic said, referring to the Assistance Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

“Serbia never was nor will be an anti-Russian country like some countries have become. We will not join to sanctions or any measures against Russia,” Dacic continued.

Asked about deteriorating relations with Croatia, and whether Zagreb could block the EU from opening Chapter 26, the next chapter in Serbia's membership negotiations, Dacic said it was absurd for Croatia to be in such a position.

“If Croatia is the one to decide about Serbia’s EU accession, then I must say, my interest in the EU suddenly dropped down,” the minister said.

Lavrov will continue his visit to Serbia on Tuesday and will take part in a session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization that will be held in Belgrade.

During his visit to Serbia, Lavrov has also met Prime Minister Vucic, President Tomislav Nikolic and Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin.

The visit comes after late in October Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev came to Serbia and called for closer cooperation between the countries' respective intelligence agencies.

That visit took place claims that a number of Russians had been were expelled from Serbia for involvement in illegal actions in neighbouring Montenegro, where the authorities claimed they forestalled an anti-Western coup on October 16, election day.

According to the Serbian daily newspaper Danas, Serbia recently expelled several Russians for alleged involvement in illegal activities in neighbouring Montenegro.

Two Russian citizens have been accused of involvement in the alleged coup attempt aimed at overthrowing the country’s government.

Serbia has denied any involvement in this affair but some experts in Belgrade claim Russian intelligence still has a strong influence on Serbia’s intelligence agencies.

Belgrade maintains close political and military relations with Russia and notably refused to join EU sanctions imposed on Moscow over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its perceived role in the separatist armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

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