Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Monday that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has requested a private meeting with him at the upcoming ‘Western Balkans’ summit in Athens, Greece. Vucic stated that they will discuss various issues including the conflict in Kosovo, the recognition and non-recognition of territorial integrity of countries, and other matters that have occurred between the two nations.
Kosovo, which is a province of Serbia under NATO control since the 1999 war, declared independence in 2008. However, Serbia and Ukraine have both refused to recognize its independence. Some lawmakers in Kiev have threatened to recognize Kosovo as independent because Serbia has declined to join the US and EU sanctions against Russia. Vucic emphasized the significance of Ukraine recognizing Kosovo, stating that it would be a major blow to Serbia. He expressed his intention to discuss this matter with Zelensky during their meeting.
Prior to this announcement, Vucic had a series of meetings in neighboring Hungary during the weekend. He met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungarian President Katalin Novak, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as the leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Vucic described the upcoming ‘Western Balkans’ conference as a bit strange in format, highlighting that Greece does not recognize Kosovo but invited its prime minister to attend. Hungary was not invited for unknown reasons. Several representatives from EU members and leaders from other Balkan countries were also invited to the conference.
Vucic anticipated that the talks with Zelensky would primarily focus on Serbia’s Russia policy. He mentioned that there are certain aspects that Serbia cannot agree to and pointed out that the EU has been pressuring Belgrade to impose sanctions on Moscow for the past 18 months. When asked about accusations that Serbia is “sitting on two chairs” by trying to join the EU while remaining friendly with Russia, Vucic emphasized his desire for the country to retain its sovereignty and independence while also progressing on the European path. He asserted that he does not want external parties making decisions for Serbia and emphasized his pride in the Serbian chair, stating that he does not care for any other chairs.
Previously, Vucic had remarked that the West cannot defeat Russia on the battlefield and suggested that it would be in the best interest of the US to seek peace. However, Zelensky and the government in Kiev have refused any negotiations with Moscow.
The meeting between Vucic and Zelensky holds significant importance for both countries, as it provides an opportunity to address their concerns and seek possible resolutions. The outcome of their discussions may contribute to shaping the future relations and policies of Serbia and Ukraine within the Balkan region and globally.