NATO respects Serbian decision to be militarily neutral: top official

10:34, June 16, 2011      

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Admiral Giampaolo di Paolo, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said here Wednesday that the military alliance would accept Serbia's stated position of military neutrality.

"NATO fully respects Serbia's decision to be militarily neutral, and is satisfied with the new direction of development of mutual relations," said di Paolo at a joint news conference with General Miloje Miletic, chief of staff of the Serbian Army.

The Italian Admiral spoke after the conclusion of NATO's annual Strategic Military Partner Conference "Post Lisbon: Delivering Transformation" which was held in Belgrade. The conference aimed at sharing perspectives on strategic issues among its members and partners.

"NATO considers Serbia a very important partner and is looking forward to the further development of cooperation in a manner that most suits Serbia," said di Paolo.

Responding to reporters' questions pertaining to a possible Serbian island of neutrality surrounded by a sea of NATO members in the Balkans, di Paolo said this did not pose a threat to the military alliance.

"It is clear that NATO has a strong interest in the stability and development of the Balkans, which we consider part of the North Atlantic family in which every member has the right to choose its role," said di Paolo.

Miletic said the Serbian military was interested in cooperation with NATO due to its extensive experience in training, education, organizational and operational commands, along with military- economic cooperation with member states.

As Serbia moves toward EU integration, membership in NATO remains an emotional and politically divisive issue.

In 1999, NATO forces bombed Serbia, forcing its army to leave its southern province of Kosovo. In the aftermath, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence and has been recognized by most members of NATO.

Source: Xinhua
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