Thursday, January 10, 2008

B92: Serbia, U.S. mark 125 years of state ties

27 December 2007 | 14:27 | Source: B92, Tanjug BELGRADE -- The 125th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Washington comes at a difficult time.

The anniversary marks the date on which King Milan Obrenović signed a decree, putting into effect the Trade Agreement and the Consular Convention between Serbia and the United States.

The issue of the status of Kosovo, Serbia's southern province under international interim administration since the end of the 1999 war there, is at the center of serious misgivings between the two countries.

Washington insists on supporting the province's independence, while Serbia's top state officials reject this, and issue sometimes strongly worded statements critical of Washington's policy.

Addressing the Serbian parliament Wednesday the Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica openly accused the United States of violating international law and destroying the system of the United Nations, "all because of the country's own military-security interests aimed at the setting up of a quasi-state in which NATO, as specified in Annex 11 of the Ahtisaari plan, would become the final body of authority in independent Kosovo,” Tanjug reminded.

Despite all this, U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter, while speaking on the occasion of the anniversary, pointed out that the Serbian-U.S. ties remain "very strong".

"Serbia and the U.S. have been partners for more than a century now," Munter told the agency on Wednesday, adding that there were times when the relations between the two countries were characterized by upheavals and others when they were those of close friendship.

"Serbs and Americans fought side by side in Europe and many U.S. soldiers owe their lives to Serbs," Munter reminded.

The two countries have established successful economic and cultural ties, and a lot of Americans, including writers, musicians, political leaders, sportsmen and other renowned persons are of Serb origin, the ambassador added.

"The Serbian-American ties are strong and they will get even stronger with our further support to Serbia as part of free and peaceful Europe," Munter assessed, adding that Washington's support for Serbia would "continue to be strong in future as well".

The ambassador reminded that last year, when Serbia and the United States began marking the 125th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had sent a letter to then Foreign Minister Vuk Drašković, expressing belief in further cooperation between the two countries, which, as she put it, would make it possible for Serbia to realize its role of being a pillar of the Balkans, as a safer and more democratic region ,as well as getting fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.

"This still counts," Munter concluded.

This time, however, he did not speak about Kosovo, which can be explained by the fact that the U.S. has made its stand on the issue quite clear on several occasions, Tanjug reported.

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