The Serbian Prime Minister on Thursday announced a major policy shift, reducing dependency on Russian gas following calls from the United States to use an American supported pipeline that would mobilise gas to Europe via Azerbaijan.
"Regarding energy safety, energy security, we are ready to diversify the sources of gas for Serbia, which is very important for our American friends as well," Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said to the Associated Press.
The US has advised Balkan and other states to transfer to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline which will take Azeri gas from the Caspian Sea to Italy, rather than participate in a new project that would transfer Russian gas to Europe via Turkey.
The US and Europe have accused Russia of using their gas supplies as a political tool, influencing countries like Serbia.
Serbia has longstanding ties with Russia but is also working towards joining the European Union. Serbia has acknowledged a Russian supported pipeline routed through Turkey known as the Turkish stream. Backing an American supported pipeline is a major change in policy for Serbia and may raise tensions with the Moscow administration.
Russia disapproved of a pipeline last year that would pass through Serbia amid increasing tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Serbia has not joined the West in sanctioning Russia over its policies in Ukraine. Western officials have pushed Serbia to choose a side between the EU and Russia.
"It's not about balancing, our strategic goal is EU path and we are very firm on our EU path," Vucic said.
‘‘Yes, on the other hand, we would like to preserve good relationship with Russia,’’ he added.
The Serbian PM disagreed with the notion of taking sides and said that his country only sides with Serbia
''We don't speak about taking or choosing sides, our side is our path to EU, our side is Serbia,'' Vucic said.
He has also emphasised that a good relationship with Washington is important in opening the door to the EU
"Washington of course is enormously important and we hope that they'll support our EU way and they'll also support our economic reforms, which is very important for our country."
Vucic spoke during a visit by the Serbian head of state to Albania’s capital Tirana. He will travel to Washington in early June for talks with US officials.