Although many people in Serbia have “poor” memories of NATO’s 1999 bombing of their country, it was, in fact, done precisely to protect them from their own government, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said in Belgrade.
He was answering questions about the bombing and about the NATO campaign against the government of the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, during a meeting with the students of Belgrade University.
“I underlined that we did this to protect civilians and to stop the Milosevic regime,” Stoltenberg said, claiming locals have poor memories of the events.
“NATO wants the alliance and Belgrade to “look into the future” now – Stoltenberg added while boasting of an “excellent relationship” between NATO and Serbia. He added that the military bloc respected Belgrade’s decision not to join the alliance. Still, he maintained that NATO wanted to be Serbia’s partner.
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He also said that NATO supports the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, not only diplomatically but also “in the form of KFOR” – the NATO-led international peacekeeping force deployed to Kosovo. “We will remain in Kosovo to protect members of all communities”, Stoltenberg added.
In March 1999, NATO launched airstrikes in what was then Yugoslavia, without the backing of the UN Security Council, after it accused Belgrade of “excessive and disproportionate use of force” in a conflict with insurgent ethnic Albanians in the region of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence nine years later, in 2008.
During the bombings, NATO dropped “between 10 and 15 tons of depleted uranium, which caused a major environmental disaster” and prompted Serbians to sue NATO over its actions, linking them to a rise in cancer-related illnesses across the region.
“In Serbia, 33,000 people fall sick because of this every year. That is one child every day,” a member of the international legal team that was preparing the lawsuit told RT in 2017. Back in 2015, Stoltenberg himself expressed regret for the civilian casualties of NATO’s 1999 bombing.
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