Security of Western Balkans paramount to NATO: Chief

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) – The security of the Western Balkans is "paramount" to the NATO, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

"The security and stability of the Western Balkans is paramount to NATO. We have strong relationships with all countries in the region," Stoltenberg said during the opening remarks of the North Atlantic Council meeting's foreign ministers' session.

Stoltenberg said NATO looks forward to welcoming Macedonia as the 30th member of the alliance once national procedures are completed.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina is a valuable contributor to the NATO operations and we fully support its journey towards Euro-Atlantic integration," he said.

The chief also said Serbia remains a "valuable" partner, adding: "NATO fully supports the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. This is critical for regional peace and security."

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade insists the country remains part of Serbia. Since then, tensions have remained between Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian majority and a small Serb minority in the north.

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