Expert: Serbs have heard a very important message from President Aliyev
Caliber.Az from Belgrade
INTERVIEWS 25 November 2022 - 14:21
Caliber.Az had an interview with Stevan Gajic, researcher of the Centre for European Studies (Belgrade, Serbia), Doctor of Political Science.
- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Serbia on November 23. How would you assess the outcomes of this visit?
- I assess the visit of the Azerbaijani President to Belgrade very positively. I think it will deepen Serbian-Azerbaijani relations, economic exchange, and, as Ilham Aliyev himself said, overall cooperation between the two countries.
- How informed is the Serbian society about Azerbaijan?
- I cannot say that they know much. In principle, the Serbs do not have much information about the South Caucasus, since in this case the interaction between Serbia and the countries of the region, the economic and tourism relations are underdeveloped. For example, I have information about Azerbaijan, since I visited Baku. But I must say that since the presidency of Boris Tadic, the level of mutual cooperation between Baku and Belgrade has been growing steadily. There was even an exchange of monuments – there is a monument to Heydar Aliyev in Tashmaidan Park in Belgrade, and a monument to Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla in Baku.
It should also be noted that our two states are practically building their relations from scratch because Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union for a long time and now it is an independent state for 30 years, while Serbia was part of Yugoslavia.
- What attracts Serbia to Azerbaijan?
- First of all, we can talk about the economic component, such as the diversification of natural gas supplies. Baku is important in the sense that with its help Serbia can achieve energy security, having in it another, an additional source of gas supplies.
But there is another, not less, or even more important point - Azerbaijan's support for Serbia's territorial integrity. Baku unequivocally supports Belgrade's stance on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. Both Vucic and Aliyev spoke about it. It is the main political point. We help each other in the world arena, and in international organizations, respecting the UN Charter and international social norms. For Serbs, this is a very important message of President Aliyev's visit.
The visit is also important for us in terms of the international context. It shows our European partners, who often oppress us, that at a time when, as Vucic said, everyone in Europe wants to be friends with Baku because of Azerbaijani gas, President Aliyev himself visited our country.
- You mentioned the problems of territorial integrity and territorial conflicts. Indeed, Baku and Belgrade have always supported each other's territorial integrity. In 2020, Azerbaijan solved the Karabakh problem. How did Serbia deal with Kosovo? Is it possible to solve the conflict peacefully or is war inevitable?
- It was very interesting to listen to the speech of President Aliyev, who said that the territorial integrity of the country can be restored by force. I think that was a very strong message and the vast majority of Serbs agree with it. If it is not possible to restore Serbia's territorial integrity peacefully, it should do so by any means. But we have to keep in mind that Serbia is surrounded by the NATO member states that fought against us in 1999. Therefore, above all, Serbia has to rely on international law, especially now that the Western world has suddenly remembered to respect the territorial integrity of the UN countries. Here, as we can see, is the usual hypocrisy.
- Probably, in view of the aforesaid, my last question may seem redundant, but I will ask you anyway. Does Serbia see its future in the EU and NATO (despite the 1999 bombing) or with Russia?
- Most of the Serbian people are against joining NATO. While earlier about 50 per cent of the population was against joining the Alliance, today supporters of NATO in Serbia can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
As for the EU, in the past 10 years, it has been declining in popularity in Serbia. Years of negotiations and blackmail by the EU have made it unattractive in our society. I can say that Serbia's experience here is very similar to Türkiye's experience with EU accession negotiations. After Brexit and the end of the war in eastern Europe, the EU will be in decline. Today it is ruled by a German-French coalition, which serves as a punching bag for Washington, London, and even Kyiv. In short, Serbia's membership in the EU and NATO is absolutely futile.
As for Russia, I can say that it is our historical friend. All the surveys in Serbia show that there is great sympathy in our society towards Russia.
Also in recent years the cooperation of Serbia with other countries, such as China, Hungary, Türkiye, countries of the Middle East, and simultaneously with Israel and Iran, has been growing. So, Serbia is looking at all four sides of the world, ready and open for cooperation with all countries, as long as they do not try to speak to us in a language of threats and blackmail. However, it is very difficult to frighten us. Serbia was not afraid of Austria-Hungary's blackmailing, was not afraid of Hitler and even more so of the blackmail of NATO in 1999.
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