U.S. defense co-op office opens in Serbia

The U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) opened here Wednesday to boost military ties between the United States and Serbia.

“Today is of historic importance for our relations with respect to defense cooperation which has grown into partnership, as Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic’s heritage is left far behind,” U.S. Ambassador Michael Polt said at the opening ceremony at Central Army House in Belgrade.

Polt and Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac signed a declaration on the opening of the office, which will be located in the U.S. embassy in Belgrade and will be headed by U.S. Army Lt Col Aleksandar Milutinovic.

“I am convinced that the Serbian Army, under the command of Dragan Sutanovac and Chief of Staff Lt Gen. Zdravko Ponos, will fortify Serbia’s place in facing global security challenges,” Polt said.

He announced that the United States would grant over half a million U.S. dollars next year in aid for the training of Serbian military professionals. The office would work toward the inclusion of Serbia in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program “if Serbia should choose so” in its preparations to join NATO.

Minister Sutanovac said the opening of the ODC was a big step in bilateral cooperation of the U.S. and Serbian armies and also of the two countries.

Ponos pointed out two essential fields within the scope of the office’s work — the realization of the state partnership program with the U.S. Ohio state, and participation in the international education program offered by the United States to partner countries.

He said the office would implement a partnership deal reached with the Ohio National Guard, which began 10 months ago following the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Serbia.
 
Source: Xinhua (Luan Shanglin)
 

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