Following the collapse of its equity partnership with Etihad Aviation Group, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is now trying to lure Qatar as a new strategic partner for Air Serbia (JU, Belgrade).

"Today, Air Serbia is completely in Serbia's hands, we are doing well, and we have a clear profit, but we are looking to avoid possible risks in the future because it's not all up to us what will happen," Vučić said during an international summit in Doha.

The Serbian president met with Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to discuss potential investment options. In his brief statement, Vučić did not offer any further details regarding the partnership. He did not specify whether Belgrade was trying to partner directly with the Qatari government or with the state-owned Qatar Airways Group.

Despite Vučić's claim about wholly Serbian ownership of Air Serbia, the Etihad Airways parent retains a 16.42% stake in the airline. The Abu Dhabi holding acquired 49% in the airline, then known as Jat Airways, in 2013 during a James Hogan-inspired buying spree, which also saw it purchasing stakes in moribund carriers such as Air Seychelles, Air Berlin (1991), Darwin Airline, and Alitalia. The airline was rebranded as Air Serbia shortly after the purchase. However, as Etihad's strategy resulted in mounting losses, it became a passive investor in Air Serbia. The management deal expired in 2018 and the Serbian government gradually increased its stake in the carrier to the currently 83.58% through a series of recapitalisations.

Contrary to its Abu Dhabi-based rival's now discontinued strategy, the Qatar Airways parent prefers to invest in larger carriers, including a 25.1% stake in IAG International Airlines Group, a 9.61% stake in Cathay Pacific, and 10% in LATAM Airlines Group.