As a state negotiating EU membership, Serbia cannot strengthen ties with Russia, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said on Monday in Brussels, noting that the recent signing of an agreement on foreign policy between Russia and Serbia was a cause for concern.
The comments come after Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković defended the agreement on consultations for 2023-2024 he signed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York this weekend.
“Serbia cannot strengthen ties with Russia because the country has increased the number of crimes, aggression and clashes in Ukraine,” Stano added.
Stano also reiterated that the EU has urged Serbian leaders to secure stronger alignment of the country’s foreign-policy initiatives with those of the Union, Stano told BETA. The bloc has also asked Serbia to support international values and the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
Asked by journalists in Brussels about the agreement between the Serbian and Russian foreign ministries to continue consultations, Stano said it was an obvious sign that Serbia wanted to “strengthen the ties and advance relations between Serbia and Russia even more,” suggesting that the move was a cause for “serious concern.”
EU High Representative Josep Borrell’s spokesman also said that “the EU was very clear that its partner states, especially those negotiating an entry into the Union, including Serbia, cannot maintain relations with Russia as usual, because it’s a regime responsible for so many crimes and misdeeds.”
At a news conference in Belgrade on Monday, US Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill said he expected Serbia to explain the kind of cooperation document it signed.
“It’s not completely clear” what the document contained, said Hill, adding that “at this point, no one should sign anything with Russia.”
The ambassador also said that his country backed Serbia on its EU path, as well as in its efforts to eliminate energy dependence on Russia, “based on blackmail,” but that the assistance would be proportional to what Serbia would ask.
Meanwhile, the EU Delegation Head to Serbia, Emanuele Giaufret, told reporters in Belgrade on Monday that the EU expected Serbia “to stand by the Union, defending European values and international law.”
“Having decided to sign a cooperation agreement with Russia, Serbia is sending a message to the contrary, regardless of its stance of not recognising the results of a referendum Russia is carrying out in the occupied territory of Ukraine,” he added.
The Serbian ministry described the document, signed in the offices of the Russian Mission at the UN, as “technical in nature.”
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