By Misko Taleski and Igor Jovanovic
Macedonia and Serbia are furthering their military co-operation after signing an agreement for joint training at Macedonia’s military polygon Krivolak, which is rated as one of the best in Europe, according to experts.
Krivolak will be used in preparation for sending soldiers to international missions, according to Macedonia’s general staff.
The agreement was reached during a meeting between Macedonia Chief of Staff Major General Goranco Koteski and his Serbia counterpart General Ljubisa Dikovic in Skopje last week.
“This gathering is advancing the co-operation with the Serbian military from previous years. The joint training activities will contribute to strengthening the peace and stability in the entire region,” Mitre Arsovski, former Macedonian chief of general staff, told SETimes.
“In the near future, similar agreements can be reached with other regional military forces. While Macedonia was part of the Yugoslav federation, the Greek Army used to come to Krivolak and we jointly conducted exercises. I do not see a reason why today it should be any different,” Arsovski said.
Serbia Army Chief of Staff General Ljubisa Dikovic said the Serbian Armed Forces had high hopes for regional co-operation through the initiative.
“The general opinion is that we must join forces in the region,” Dikovic said. Co-operation with Macedonia could improve through further advancement, training and exchange of personnel, as well as in the fields of military economic and military medical co-operation, he said.
“We understand each other perfectly and I hope that this co-operation will be at a very high level, all for the purpose of maintaining security in this region,” Dikovic said.
The idea for the military polygon Krivolak as a regional training centre dates back to the late Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.
Macedonia offered Krivolak as a training centre in the second phase of the international coalition’s military operations in Iraq, and as a Balkan regional training centre for the then NATO candidate member countries Albania and Croatia.
This time, the Serbian and Macedonian military delegations went beyond Krivolak and also agreed that Macedonian military experts will train at the Centre for Atomic-Biological Defense in Serbia.
The base’s medical training and regional communication centres will be used in the joint training, as well as an exchange of information on experiences in the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military analysts agreed that despite the national antagonisms in the Balkans, this kind of bilateral military co-operation is undertaken to strengthen the two countries defense capabilities.
“Co-operation is welcome with anyone who has good intentions for the future of the region and does not harbour agendas for territorial aggrandizement,” Risto Nikovski, former Macedonian ambassador to Albania, told SETimes.
Serbian military analyst and author Aleksandar Radic said that Serbia could benefit a great deal from the joint initiative, particularly regarding regional co-operation and training for peacekeeping missions.
“As far as technical aspects are concerned, Serbia has something to learn from Macedonia in the area of peacekeeping missions, but it is also important that it can use such modern training grounds as Krivolak,” Radic told SETimes.