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Serbia Hosts Joint Military Drills With U.S. As Bosnia Hosts NATO Delegation

According to U.S. military officials, the Double Eagle exercises are designed to enhance U.S. and Serbian relationships while contributing to regional security.

At the invitation of the Serbian government, U.S. Army paratroopers from the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, will conduct a bilateral Serbian and U.S. airborne exercise this week.

Exercise Double Eagle begins on November 17 at Batajnica Airfield, in Belgrade.

Double Eagle is designed to enhance U.S. and Serbian relationships, foster areas of mutual interest, and contribute to regional security and peace, U.S. European Command officials said.

About 100 service members from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and two C-130Js and their aircrews from the 86th Airlift Wing based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, will participate in the exercise.

In addition to extensive joint military training, service members will exchange jump wings as a token of the joint cooperation, officials said.

NATO and Serbia have steadily improved cooperation and dialogue since the country joined the Partnership for Peace program and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 2006. Serbia signed its individual partnership action plan with NATO in 2015.

A military neutrality resolution was adopted by the Serbian Parliament in 2007. According to this document, Serbian cannot became a NATO member.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on November 15, said "there is no doubt whatsoever that we absolutely respect the decision by Serbia to remain a military neutral country, because Serbia is a sovereign, independent nation, and I and the whole alliance strongly believe in the right of every nation to choose its own path."

"We have to remember that NATO has many partners which are neutral," Stoltenberg added.

Belgrade also insists on a balanced policy between Russia and western partners, and Stoltenberg said that "It is for Serbia to decide how they want to cooperate with Russia."

Meanwhile, neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina moved to develop closer ties with NATO as a delegation of the NATO Military Committee residing in Sarajevo visited the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces on November 14.

General Petr Pavel. the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, called for unity in light of new moves by Russia in the region, as well as the threats posed by terrorism and migration.

Bosnian Defense Minister Marina Pendes stressed that she expects Bosnia will be granted approval by the end of the year to activate a NATO Membership Action Plan.