The leaders of Serbia, Montenegro agree to build tight relations between historical friends

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The leaders of Serbia and Montenegro have agreed to try to find a close relationship between the historic Balkan friends

By beingJOVANA GEC Associated Press

Serbia Montenegro

Montenegro’s President Jakov Milatovic listens to his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic during a press conference at the Serbian Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, July 10, 2023. Milatovic is on a two-day official visit to Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia — The leaders of Serbia and Montenegro agreed on Monday to try to find a close relationship between the historic Balkan alliances.

The two countries had formed a joint state until Montenegro seceded in 2006 after a referendum on independence. The old alliances grew further apart after Montenegro recognized the 2008 declaration of independence by the former Serbian region of Kosovo.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Montenegro’s new President Jakov Milatovic said after a meeting in Belgrade that they will work to develop political ties to match their countries’ economic cooperation.

Milatovic’s visit to Belgrade was the first by a Montenegrin president in years. Naming the ambassadors in Belgrade and Podgorica after a diplomatic row in 2020 will be among the first moves, the two officials said.

“It is our duty to really develop relations and not to disturb them, as has often happened in the past,” said Milatovic from Montenegro. “We are turning a new page in our relationship with this trip. “

Milatovic replaced Montenegro’s long-serving head of the West, Milo Djukanovic, after an election in April. While in power, Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from Serbia and opposed Russia’s push to join NATO in 2017.

Montenegro was widely seen as the next to join the European Union before a political crisis halted the attempt. Milatovic’s pro-EU party won the majority of votes in parliamentary elections in June – but not enough to form a government on its own.

About a third of Montenegro’s 620,000 people identify as Serbs and divisions in the country remain deep over relations with Serbia. Both countries share the same language and both are predominantly Orthodox Christians.

Vucic said Serbia does not intend to “force anyone to do what they don’t want to do.”

“We agree on some (issues),” he said, “and on some we don’t but we’ve talked in a civil, normal way that should help build trust between us.”

Montenegro remained in union with Serbia after another republic in the former Yugoslavia split in the early 1990s. The breakup of the former alliance led to a series of ethnic conflicts that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

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