Serbia says its EU goal won't be 'detrimental' to Russia ties
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Friday said that while his country strives to join the European Union, it will not "in any way" harm Serbia's "good relations" with Russia.
"We have very clearly stated that we want to become a member of the European Union, this is in our interests, since our country is politically and geographically located in this part of Europe," Dacic said in Moscow after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"But this must not in any way be to the detriment of our good relations with Russia," he said in remarks translated to Russian.
"Maybe some countries believe they have a monopoly on relations with Russia and that nobody can have a different relationship than they do," he added, noting that Belgrade has developed "its own policy" towards its longtime ally.
Lavrov called Belgrade's path to the EU a "sovereign choice" but added that he hoped Brussels "would put an end to the destructive either-or logic, forcing its colleagues to choose whether they want to be with Russia or the EU."
In 2013 Ukraine was gripped with mass protests over choosing between Moscow or Brussels. Kiev was on track to sign an association agreement with the EU but then ex-president Viktor Yanukovych had a change of heart and struck a strategic alliance with Russia.
The pro-West forces eventually ousted Yanukovych from power but a pro-Russian separatist rebellion broke out in eastern Ukraine that is still unresolved.
In December Brussels opened the first chapters in negotiations for Serbia to join the EU, but the 28-member bloc has ruled out any enlargement before 2020.
The Balkan country is one of Europe's poorest nations following the war with Kosovo, a breakaway province Belgrade does not recognise as independent and remains its biggest hurdle in the EU accession process.
© 2016 AFP