US seeks better ties with Serbia


Despite the tensions in their relationship over the years, the US and Serbia have agreed to disagree in order to move their relationship forward.

In a visit to Belgrade on Wednesday, US Vice President Joe Biden told the Serbian government that Washington wants a fresh start in its relationship with the country.

Relations between the Washington and Belgrade have been riddled with difficulties for years. They became especially tense when the US recognized Kosovo after the latter unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February of last year. Most EU countries have also recognized Kosovo's independence.

Biden said the US would support Belgrade's bid to join the European Union regardless of whether the Serbs recognize the statehood of Kosovo.

"The United States does not, I emphasize, does not expect Serbia to recognize the independence of Kosovo," Biden said. "We will use our influence, our energy and resources to promote Serbia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations," he added.

> Map Serbia & Kosovo

Stand on Kosovo not negotiable

Serbian President Boris Tadic welcomed the vice president's remarks, but repeated Serbia's position on Kosovo's independence.

"Serbia does not and will never recognize Kosovo. It is Serbia's legitimate right to defend its territorial integrity through the use of peaceful, diplomatic and legal means," Tadic said.

"Notwithstanding our different positions on the Kosovo question, Serbia wishes for the best possible relations with the United States as partners," he added.
Serbs have mixed feelings toward US

Biden is the most senior US official to come to Belgrade since President Jimmy Carter toured the region in 1980.

The US is not particularly popular in Serbia despite the country's western-leaning president. The Serbs see the US as an aggressor, since Washington led the NATO bombing campaign of the country in 1999 and supported the right of Muslims to arm themselves during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

Security in Belgrade was tight during Biden's visit. The air space over Serbia was closed, and all public gatherings were banned. Local officials recalled that demonstrators set fire to the US Embassy in Belgrade when the US recognized Kosovo's independence.

Biden is on a three-day tour of the region and heads to Kosovo on Thursday. On Friday he will be in Lebanon.