11/16/2016 10:15 EST | Updated 11/16/2016 10:22 EST

Canada's Bid For UN Security Council Seat Backed By Serbia, Despite Kosovo War

Public endorsement by European country is important.

OTTAWA — Canada has won the support of Serbia in its bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2020, even though Canada went to war against it 17 years ago, says the country's foreign minister.

The Security Council campaign is a key pillar of the Trudeau government's foreign policy and the international politicking is in the early stages. But it is clearly under way.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion speaks at the UN headquarters in New York on March 16, 2016. (Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA via CP)

The public endorsement by a European country, albeit a small one, is important.

Canada is running in the 2019 election for a two-year term starting the following year.

Canada lost its last Security Council bid in 2010 to Portugal — a loss that was at least partially attributable to what many analysts viewed as the solidarity of the European countries voting in a bloc for one of their own.

Canada competes in the Western European and Others Group of the UN, and will face stiff competition in 2019 from Ireland and Norway.

'We wish to have better relations with Canada'

"Serbia will certainly support it, support their candidacy," Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in an interview Tuesday during his first visit to Canada.

"We wish to have better relations with Canada. Canada is a very important partner of ours."

The visiting foreign minister demurred when asked whether Serbia would try to influence European neighbours, saying it is a small country.

Serbia is on a track to join the European Union by the end of the decade and its ambassador to Canada, Mihailo Papazoglu, suggested his country would not be averse to trying to convince some of its neighbours in the Balkans and elsewhere on the continent to support Canada.

Serbian foreign minister wants to move beyond past

Dacic was a on a two-day trip to Canada, where he had meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Immigration Minister John McCallum.

The minister, who spoke through a translator, said Serbia wanted to move on from its troubled past and has no hard feelings against Canada, which went to war against his country alongside NATO allies in 1999.

Canada joined the 78-day NATO bombardment of Serbia to support persecuted ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo, which has since formed its own country.

Canadian CF-18 jet fighters dropped 10 per cent of the NATO bombs that pounded Serbia, including its capital, Belgrade.

"It's obvious that many countries participated in the bombing of Serbia, but we cannot live just remembering the past," said Dacic. "We have to try to find the common interest.

Find new friends'

"The administration in Canada changed and everywhere in the world. We have to work with these new people, to find new friends."

Dacic also pushed for Canada to lift a visa requirement for Serbian travellers, an irritant in Canada's relations with the EU members Bulgaria and Romania as well.

He said the two countries also finalized an air travel agreement that will pave the way for direct flights between Canada and Belgrade.

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