PARIS -- The Serbian ambassador to NATO, Branislav Milinkovic, jumped to his death from a multistory parking garage on Tuesday afternoon at the Brussels airport, diplomats said Wednesday.
Mr. Milinkovic, 52, a respected diplomat, lawyer and intellectual appointed to the ambassadorship in 2009, was at the airport to meet a visiting Serbian delegation, officials said. B92, an independent broadcaster in Belgrade, Serbia, reported that the country's assistant foreign minister, Zoran Vujic, was with Mr. Milinkovic at the time and witnessed his death.
Serbian officials said that the motive was not known, and that Mr. Milinkovic gave no sign of what he intended in the moments before he leapt to his death.
Diplomats attending a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels said they were shocked by the news. Serbia is not a member of the military alliance, but it belongs to a group of countries that cooperates with NATO on military and security issues.
Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for the alliance, said by telephone from Brussels that Mr. Milinkovic was a jovial and engaging man known for his gentle manner, and that he was widely liked and admired at NATO headquarters, where he had been recently seen playing tennis. He had a wife, who was in Dublin at the time of his death, and a son, B92 said.
When Serbia, the largest state to emerge from the disintegration of Yugoslavia, was ruled by the strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, NATO conducted a bombing campaign to force Mr. Milosevic to withdraw Serbian forces from the breakaway region of Kosovo. Mr. Milinkovic was an opposition activist during Mr. Milosevic's rule, and he became a diplomat after his overthrow in 2000, helping to rebuild friendly ties with Western Europe.
"Everyone is totally shocked to hear what happened," Ms. Lungescu said. "He was a totally open and lovely man and made an important contribution toward rapprochement between Serbia and NATO, making great efforts to bridge over a difficult history and to move forward rather than backward."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.