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EU candidates Serbia and Russia sign foreign policy agreement

Belgrade, Serbia — Serbia has signed an agreement with Russia for mutual “consultations” on foreign policy issues, the Balkan country’s media reported on Saturday.

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic signed the agreement on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, where most Western delegations avoided the head of Russian diplomacy during the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The consultation plan covered by the agreement is expected to last two years, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday. Serbia is officially a candidate for membership of the European Union, but the government maintains relations with Russia.

Although Serbia has said it supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the government has repeatedly refused to join Western sanctions against its Slavic allies in Moscow. Aligning foreign policies with the EU is one of the key prerequisites for joining the 27-nation bloc, but Serbia has increasingly defied calls to do so.

Serbian and Russian media said Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic met Lavrov in New York and the two “underlined the emphasis on further dynamic development of Russian-Serbian relations”.

Pro-Western Serbian opposition officials say the signing of the latest deal with Russia is a sign Vucic, a former ultranationalist, has backed away from the Balkan country’s EU membership and is bringing it closer to Moscow .

The centrist opposition party SSP said “it is incredible” that at a time when most of the world is watching Moscow’s actions with apprehension, Serbia has signed a consultation agreement with a country “that directly violates the Charter of the United Nations and intends to annex the territory.”

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Vucic’s informal spokesman, said in a statement that “expanding cooperation with Russia is not a matter of respect for the past but a responsible decision in the face of coming”.

Serbia is important to Russia as a means of destabilizing the Balkans and potentially distracting some of the world’s attention from the war in Ukraine.

ABC News

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