Diplomatic troubles emerged between the United States and Serbia last week after U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) in Libya allegedly killed two Serbian embassy workers, Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, Balkan Insight reports.
The autopsies ordered by the Serbian government reportedly point to blast wounds from an explosion as the cause of death. This had led Serbia to blame the United States’ actions for the deaths of the diplomats. However, the U.S. government denied Serbian allegations claiming that an unnamed “criminal group” was responsible for the murders of the two workers. The U.S. claims that this organization used the airstrikes as cover to get away, citing that images of the wounded diplomats do not match the wounds that would have been inflicted by an airstrike of significant force.
“It is very important to arrive at the full truth,” Serbian Prime Minister Alexsandr Vucic stated.
Vucic called on the U.S. to reveal evidence confirming it was not responsible for the airstrikes during a meeting this coming Sunday. However, Vucic also said he seeks to “not destroy the good trend in relations with the U.S.”
According to DW, the diplomatic tensions over the embassy workers’ deaths come just as Vucic signed a cooperation deal with NATO, signaling a possibility of closer ties with the United States and the EU. This situation, however, has created problems for Serbia both internally and with Russia, which views any legal deal with NATO as a threat to Serbia’s proclaimed neutrality. Many Serbian right-wing and anti-Western groups have protested the deal, Russia Today writes, as they still consider NATO an enemy after its 1999 bombing intervention in the Kosovo conflict.
Despite statements by Prime Minister Vucic that Serbia will not be applying to join NATO, the Serbian government has still faced significant criticism. Serbia will have to find a way to assure its neutrality while it attempts to push for greater economic integration with the EU.