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Serbian Defense Minister Denounces U.S. Official's 'Unfriendly' Remarks

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin (right) welcomes Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Belgrade on October 20.

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has criticized as unfriendly remarks by a senior U.S. diplomat who suggested that Belgrade's balancing act between Moscow and the West is unsustainable.

In a statement circulated late on October 23, Vulin said that the remarks made by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee earlier in the day represented "the greatest pressure publicly put on Serbia yet."

"This is not a statement made by a friend or a man respecting Serbia, our policy, and our right to make our own decisions," said the minister, who is known for his pro-Russian stance.

He added that Serbia will choose its course regardless of what the "great powers" want.

Speaking at the Serbian Economic Summit in Belgrade, Yee earlier said that countries wishing to join the European Union "must very clearly demonstrate this desire."

"You cannot sit on two chairs at the same time, especially if they are that far away," he said.

The chief Serbian negotiator in the country's EU accession talks, Tanja Miscevic, suggested on October 24 that Yee's statement was "taken out of context."

Miscevic said the U.S. diplomat understood Serbia's determination to become a member of the European Union, adding that Serbia had "a clear foreign political strategic orientation."

On October 24 in Belgrade, Yee held talks with Serbian Prime Minister Anna Brnabic. He was scheduled to meet with President Aleksandar Vucic later in the day.

Serbia is formally seeking EU membership. Vucic, a former nationalist, has remade himself as a pro-EU reformer while seeking to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia, which is looking to block the Balkan country's path toward possible NATO membership.

With reporting by AP and Balkan Insight