NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Belgrade on Friday that NATO would remove restrictions in Serbia's air space that had been in force since 1999, including lifting a ban on flights within a 25-kilometre zone near the border with Kosovo.

The Kosovo Force (KFOR) will completely lift the flight ban today, which means that restrictions on parts of Serbia's air space no longer exist. That means Serbia's full integration with Europe's air space, Stoltenberg said after talks with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at a joint news conference.

"We believe that after 16 years we will be able to put up radars and control our entire air space," Vucic said in a comment on the decision, underlining that it was adopted "exclusively through dialogue."

Vucic said that it was very important to ease tension at the lower levels of air space over Kosovo because Belgrade wanted Serbian aircraft to be able to land in Pristina.

Stoltenberg said that NATO respected Serbia's military neutrality, describing the removal of the 1999 flight restrictions as a concrete expression of relations between NATO and Serbia and a result of Serbia's commitment to normalisation of its relations with Pristina.

He stressed that he supported the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, describing it as the only way to move forward.

You should be looking to the future, not the past, said the NATO official.

Stoltenberg expressed condolences to the families of people killed in NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999, saying that the intervention had not been directed against the Serbian people but that its purpose had been to put an end to unacceptable activities of the Milosevic regime.

The NATO intervention ended years of war in the Balkans. We did everything during the intervention to prevent the loss of innocent lives and every civilian life lost was a tragedy that we deeply regret, Stoltenberg said, expressing condolences to families on both sides of the conflict and all who had lost their dear ones.

He went on to say that KFOR would continue its peace mission in Kosovo.

Stoltenberg explained that after last week's terrorist attacks in Paris there had been no activation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, under which an attack on a member of the alliance is treated as an attack on all members, noting that this was a fight against terrorism and not a conflict between the West and Muslims.

Muslims on the first line of defence against terrorism are very often the first victims, Stoltenberg said, suggesting that Muslims, too, should be supported in the fight against terrorists and that all NATO member countries should contribute to the fight against the Islamic State terrorist organisation.

PM Vucic said that the visit of the NATO Secretary-General was important and useful to Serbia.

Stressing that Serbia is a sovereign and militarily neutral country and that it will abide by its parliamentary declaration and decision on its military neutrality, Vucic said that Belgrade would continue to advance its good cooperation with NATO "even though NATO and Serbia even today needn't be in agreement on certain issues from the past."

"There is no hostility between us and Serbia does not want to make enemies of our friends even though I don't think that Serbia or its leadership was in any way responsible for what happened in 1999, but we view events from the past differently," explained Vucic.

The Serbian PM said that he and Stoltenberg also discussed the current migrant crisis and the technical assistance of NATO which will cover a significant part of the cost of training of Serbian army officers.

"We have managed to have 70-80% of the training paid for and I am sure that it will have manifold benefits for us," said Vucic.

Until the end of the day, when he will end his visit to Serbia, Stoltenberg will also meet Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic and hold a lecture at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.