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Zelensky meets Serbian president at Ukraine-Balkans summit

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 22, 2023 11:33 AM 3 min read
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meet at the Ukraine-Balkans summit, Aug. 22, 2023. (Source: President Volodymyr Zelensky/Twitter)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Aug. 22 that he had met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic at the Ukraine-Balkans summit.

"An open, honest, and fruitful meeting with the President of Serbia (Aleksandar Vucic)," Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

"Good conversation on respect for the U.N. Charter and the inviolability of borders. On our nations' shared future in the common European home. On developing our relations, (which) is in our mutual interest."

Already on Aug. 21, Ukrinform reported on the planned meeting between Zelensky and Vucic.

"I want to inform the public that I will have a bilateral meeting with him at the request of the Ukrainian President. I will talk to Zelensky about everything that has happened recently in Kosovo. I believe we will have an open and good conversation," Vucic said.

In May, dozens of NATO peacekeeping soldiers were injured when violence erupted in northern Kosovo following elections in which ethnic Albanian mayors took office in Serbian-majority areas of northern Kosovo. Serbs boycotted the elections, resulting in a low turnout. Kosovo blamed Serbia for inciting the boycott and ensuing violence.

Serbia has never recognized Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, as an independent state after it broke away from Serbia following a war in 1998-99. The U.S. and most European Union member states have recognized Kosovo's independence, which was officially declared in 2008. Ukraine has yet to recognize the country.

The Serbian-Ukrainian relationships are complicated by Belgrade's friendly attitude toward Russia, as Serbia has refused to join sanctions against Moscow. According to the Anadolu Agency, Vucic said that Russia would win its war against Ukraine despite growing support from Western countries, urging a peaceful solution "as soon as possible."

At the same time, Vucic has called Ukraine a "friendly country" and had previously affirmed that Crimea and Donbas are Ukrainian sovereign territories.

The so-called Pentagon leaks from April suggested that Serbia had allegedly committed to supplying lethal weaponry to Kyiv, or that it had already delivered it, which the Serbian government publicly denied. The Financial Times reported on June 7 that Vucic is "not opposed" to his country selling ammunition to intermediaries who would send it to Ukraine.

Ukraine war latest: Greece to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s; Ukraine advances southeast of Robotyne
Key developments on Aug. 21: * Ukraine advances southeast of Robotyne and south of Mala Tokmachka in Zaporizhzhia Oblast * Three square kilometers near Bakhmut liberated over the past week * Greece to take part in F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots * Ukraine’s Air Force says F16 jets can change…

The Ukrainian president arrived at the summit in Athens on Aug. 21, planning to meet with Balkan leaders to coordinate European and Euro-Atlantic integration, defense cooperation, and security, as well as separate talks on bilateral issues.

Zelensky has so far confirmed meeting Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a joint statement by leaders of 11 countries, including Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova, Greece, Romania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Ukraine, the participants of the summit expressed support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The leaders also said that perpetrators of war crimes must be held accountable, and voiced support for the EU ambitions of Ukraine, Moldova, and Western Balkan nations.

Reuters: Leaked US document claims Serbia agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine
Serbia agreed to provide Ukraine with lethal aid or has already sent it, according to an alleged secret Pentagon document said to be leaked, Reuters reported on April 12.
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