US Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby has said that both Serbs and Croats could spend money on something else than arms because there are economic limitations and noted that the crisis in Serbia-Croatia relations over a reported armament race is not as serious as it seems to be in the public, a Belgrade daily said on Friday.
I believe that arms procurement is not necessary and maybe your money could be spent some other way and on other things. I believe that in Croatia, too, there is an awareness of economic limitations, Kirby said in an interview with the Blic daily.
Commenting on Croatia's plans to buy arms and Serbia's possible purchase of arms from Russia, over which Croatian and Serbian officials exchanged a number of harsh messages over the past few days, the US ambassador said that the crisis was not as bad as some would like to make it.
Kirby recalled messages that peace, stability and good relations are vital for the Balkans and the rest of the region. We will work with both Serbia and Croatia to make that so, he said, not denying anyone the right to buy whatever they wanted.
We have good military consultations here and we will have them again in a few months' time. I met with Prime Minister (Aleksandar) Vucic earlier this week, and we will meet again next week. However, Serbia will do what it thinks is best for itself, the US diplomat said.
At the same time, the head of the EU Delegation in Serbia, Micheal Davenport, said that a potential arms purchase had not been discussed with senior state officials.
"We spoke about how important it is for all stakeholders to play their role and for bilateral relations in the region to improve, for efforts to be made to achieve greater progress and predictability in those relations and in regional cooperation and for that progress to continue this year. I believe that that is what everyone wants," Davenport said.
In the past two weeks, Belgrade and Zagreb exchanged strong-worded messages following reports that Croatia would buy ballistic missiles and armoured howitzers. During last week's visit to Belgrade, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Moscow would carefully analyse Serbia's request for the delivery of efficient non-offensive weapons, to be used for defence purposes.
At a joint news conference held after talks with PM Vucic, the Russian official presented the Serbian PM with a model of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft rocket system.
Vucic told reporters the system was too expensive for Serbia but that the Russian side "has shown its interest to help through certain arrangements."