NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Bosnia and Herzegovina has come a long way since the conflicts of the 1990s, but, unfortunately, tensions remain high, with rhetoric that contributes to divisions, stalled reforms and foreign actors working to undermine its progress.
In an interview with “Vijesti” from Podgorica, Stoltenberg spoke about the situation in the Balkans, including BiH, Russian influence in the region and other topics.
“We call on Russia to play a constructive role in the Western Balkans, but we have regularly seen that Russia is doing the exact opposite. NATO fully respects the sovereign right of countries to choose their own political and security arrangements. This is a basic principle of European security. A principle to which Russia has also committed itself that they will respect as part of the Helsinki Agreement,” he said.
As he said, NATO will continue to promote stability, security and cooperation in the region through the partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the efforts of its headquarters in Sarajevo, its support for the operation translated by the European Union Eufor Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as part of the Berlin Plus arrangement.
“NATO maintains a high-level political dialogue with Bosnia and Herzegovina. In May, I met with the Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, in Brussels. The Minister of Defense of BiH joined our discussions at the Summit in Madrid, and recently the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer. Moreover, as the NATO leaders agreed in Madrid, we are ready to strengthen political and practical support for partners who are at risk of Russian aggression, including Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Stoltenberg told “Vijesti”.
He was also asked how he views the incendiary rhetoric from the highest Serbian officials regarding, among other things, the concept of the “Serbian world”? An example of this is the current Minister of Internal Affairs and former Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin.
He said that NATO and Serbia are close and long-standing partners, and that their partnership is based on political dialogue and practical cooperation, with full respect for Serbia’s state policy of military neutrality.
“Our political dialogue manifests itself in various ways. It includes my contacts with President Aleksandar Vucic and other political leaders and regular interactions with Serbian colleagues who have my Deputy Assistant for Political Affairs and Security Policy and Head of the NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade. It also includes well-established relations between the commander of KFOR and the Serbian Chief of General Staff. Such relations are made possible by a constructive spirit and mutual respect, which should continue,” he stressed.
He also commented on the tensions in Kosovo. He said that he recently spoke with the political leadership in Pristina and Belgrade about the tensions in the north of Kosovo.
He said that all parties must remain calm, avoid unilateral actions and constructively engage in dialogue with the mediation of the European Union.
“In accordance with its UN mandate, the KFOR mission is closely monitoring the situation and is ready to intervene if stability is threatened. Our mission is committed to ensuring a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo. NATO continues to fully support the dialogue with the mediation of the EU and we call on all parties to continue the negotiations. This is crucial for regional peace and security,” the NATO Secretary General concluded.