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News 13 Oct 17

US Ambassador Accused of Meddling in Serbia's Affairs

After the US ambassador to Serbia criticised a minister for appearing to praise convicted war criminals, the pro-government media have accused him of interfering in Serbia's internal affairs.

Maja Zivanovic

Serbian media on Friday. Photo: BIRN

Pro-government media outlets have accused US ambassador Kyle Scott of interfering in Serbia's affairs after the diplomat criticised Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin for praising convicted war criminals.

The daily Vecernje novosti on Friday accused Scott of wanting to control the Serbian government.

The ambassador's “public criticism of minister Vulin ... violated the Vienna Convention,” it said, referring to the 1961 convention on diplomatic relations.

The US ambassador criticised Vulin after the minister spoke at a gathering of former soldiers of the Third Battalion of the Yugoslav Army last Saturday.

The gathering was also attended by two convicted war criminals, Vladimir Lazarevic, the former chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army’s Pristina Corps, and Nikola Sainovic, former deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia, who have since returned to Serbia after serving jail sentences.

Lazarevic and Sainovic were sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to 14 and 18 years in prison respectively for the military campaign in Kosovo which resulted in 11,000 Kosovo Albanians being killed and some 700,000 expelled to neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Vulin said that Serbia was no longer ashamed of those who had “defended it, and added that the time had come to be “quietly proud” of the country instead.

Scott on Wednesday retweeted a Washington Post article, commenting that months of work to improve Serbia’s image in the United States ricked being “undermined with a single statement”.  

Vulin rebuffed the criticism from the ambassador on the same day, while Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Thursday said that the American ambassador should not seek to interfere with the internal affairs of Serbia.

The report in Vecernje novosti meanwhile highlighted other “disputable statements of foreign diplomats”, recalling previous statements by the former chief of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, former German ambassadors Wolfram Mass and Andreas Cobe, and former Russian ambassador Aleksandar Konuzin.

Meanwhile, the daily Politika published a report on the Scott-Vulin discussion with the headline “Serbian Ministers Against Ambassador Scott”.

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