Serbia’s foreign minister defends deal with Russia

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Serbia’s foreign minister on Sunday sought to downplay the importance of an agreement with Russia after the Balkan state, which is seeking European Union membership, faced criticism for signing it.

Nikola Selakovic signed the agreement Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where most Western delegations shunned Russia’s top diplomat over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The consultation plan covered by the agreement is expected to last for two years, Serbia’s foreign ministry said in a Friday statement.

Serbia officially is a candidate for European Union membership, but the government maintains relations with Russia.

The news of the deal triggered harsh criticism from pro-EU opposition at home and some EU politicians.

Selakovic said the agreement was a “technical” one and related to bilateral ties, but not security issues. Serbia has been signing similar documents with Russia since 1996, Selakovic insisted.

“The government could have rejected such a plan but there is nothing contentious in it,” he added, “It is being criticized by those who haven’t seen it.”

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