Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, Sarajevo, September 21, 2018
Mr Minister, Igor, colleagues,
I had a meaningful meeting today with three members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as detailed talks with the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As my colleague have said, Russia firmly believes in the non-alternative nature of the Dayton agreements. We support sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, of course, the constitutional authority of its two entities and the principle of equality of the three constitutional peoples. We want the results of the elections that are to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina next month to be based on these principles as well. This will contribute to consolidating all Bosnians around the Dayton principles, which, I believe, is a key to the successful development of the Bosnian state. We very much appreciate the willingness to expand cooperation with Russia, as reiterated by all the members of the Presidency today, as well as during the talks. In turn, we are also interested in cooperating with Bosnia and Herzegovina and both its entities.
Bilateral turnover is growing steadily. This trend is accompanied, in particular, by a significant increase in the export of Bosnian fruits and vegetables to Russia. Major investment projects are being implemented by our companies, specifically, Zarubezhneft, Sberbank and others.
This year, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina mark 40 years of cooperation in the gas sector. We continue uninterrupted gas supplies to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Gazprom successfully cooperating under two separate contracts with both the Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We note the stepped up activities of the Intergovernmental Russian-Bosnian-Herzegovinian Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, which creates better conditions for increasing the volume of cooperation.
We have traditionally close ties in culture and education. We continue to provide scholarships for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina who want to study at Russian universities. The number of these students is on the rise, which we are pleased with. We have a promising future in military memorial affairs which is due to our historical and spiritual closeness. Some cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are participating in the Immortal Regiment drive for the second year, something that is held in Russia on May 9.
We have a very good contractual and legal framework. This year, it was supplemented by labour migration agreements, as well as agreements in labour and employment. Work is nearing completion on new agreements, including in the areas of avoidance of double taxation, cooperation in culture, science and education, social security, and tourism.
We have just signed a plan for working consultations between our Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2019-2020. It provides for further harmonisation of our approaches, exchange of views on key international issues, including processes in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic area, interaction in the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. There will also be consultations on matters of southeastern Europe, primarily the Balkans. Our positions are very close. My colleague and friend just mentioned the need to comply with the principles outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 with regard to the Kosovo settlement. We welcome the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Most importantly, things that are agreed upon as part of this dialogue must be fulfilled. We also agree that all external players should not create confrontational situations in the Balkans and none of these external players should claim control of the Balkans and tell everyone else to stay away. Our country closely and productively cooperated with the EU, the United States, including during the coordination of the Dayton agreements. I see no reason why this cooperation should now be questioned.
In closing, I would like to thank our hosts and Mr Minister personally, for the hospitality and the invitation to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Question: During the ongoing election campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina several politicians are trying to brag about their alleged support by the Russian Federation. Does Russia have favoured candidates in these elections, above all Milorad Dodik?
Sergey Lavrov: We favour the favourites of the Bosnian people who will cast votes for their chosen candidates. We never try to promote certain candidates during the elections in other countries. We will always respect the choice of the Bosnians and will work with whomever they vote for.
Question: Yesterday, the Pravda za Davida public group sent you an open letter. The same letter was received by Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak. Do you know the content of this letter? What can you tell us about this issue?
Sergey Lavrov: Yesterday, we arrived at 2 am. I have had no time to read this letter. Mr Crnadak just told me that it was sent to him and to me. I have to read it first.
Sergey Lavrov (adds after Mr Crnadak’s words that it was difficult to plan a meeting with the authors of the letter with Mr Lavrov’s busy schedule in Bosnia and Herzegovina): It would have been easier to do this if the letter had arrived some days earlier rather that last night.
Question: The Syrian opposition believes that the agreement signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on establishing a demilitarised zone in Idlib has put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s dream of regaining full control of his territory. Does it really have no time frame, as Damascus keeps claiming?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the opinions of the Syrian opposition, we cannot see them as a demonstration of respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is fixed in the relevant UN Security Council resolution. The main threat to Syria’s territorial integrity is emanating from the country’s eastern areas, the eastern bank of the Euphrates, where independent autonomous entities are actually being established under direct US control.
We will insist on discontinuing these illegal activities. We continue to express this, both directly to the Americans and in the UN Security Council.
As for the Russia-Turkey agreement on Idlib, it is primarily aimed at eradicating the terrorist threat. Of course, this is an intermediate step because it is basically the creation of a demilitarised zone. But this step is necessary because this zone will make it possible to prevent the continued shelling from the Idlib de-escalation zone at Syrian military positions and at the Russian military base in Khmeimim.
By the middle of October, all Jabhat-al-Nusra fighters must leave this demilitarised zone. All heavy weapons must also be withdrawn. Just yesterday and the day before, the Russian and Turkish militaries coordinated on the ground the borders of the demilitarised zone, so the process of implementing the Sochi agreements is making steady headway.
Question: Can you please comment on the latest US sanctions against Russia. What measures will be taken in response to the pressure on foreign customers over ordering the S-400 system?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the announced US sanctions against Russian legal entities and individuals, we are no longer surprised by anything. As for the Sukhoi Company and the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant, these sanctions are certainly yet another manifestation of dishonest competition. I think we are seeing, for the umpteenth time, that the dollar system has fully discredited itself and trust in it is sharply falling.
This is not the first time that serious international issues that concern many members of the world community are being held hostage to US electoral cycles. But this is a very short-sighted approach because as I’ve already said, confidence in the IMF’s current principles has been hugely undermined. More and more countries are thinking of ways to avoid any dependence on this international monetary and financial system.
We are considering this situation and taking the necessary measures to avoid dependence on countries that behave in this way towards their international partners. An increasing number of our partners in Asia and Latin America are coming to adopt the same approach. I think this trend will only grow stronger.