Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answer to a media question at a joint news conference following a meeting with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic Belgrade, December 15, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Serbian leadership and personally to President Aleksandar Vucic for the excellent organisation of our delegation’s visitand for traditional Serbian hospitality.
We had extremely substantive talks. We discussed the entire range of bilateral relations and persisting problems, which are not becoming any easier in Europe and the world as a whole.
We have reaffirmed our commitment to the agreements reached between our countries at the top level for deepening our strategic partnership in all spheres, including political dialogue, the economy and military-technical cooperation.
We expressed our high appreciation of the participation by President Aleksandar Vucic in the events held in June 2020 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. The fact that the Serbian Honour Guard Drill Company marched on Red Square is yet another proof of our common categorical opposition to any attempts to rewrite the history of World War II and to whitewash Nazis and their accomplices.
Further evidence of our common policy was the ceremony of lighting the Eternal Flame at the Cemetery of Belgrade Liberators, which we attended together with President Vucic. The flame has been lit from a capsule brought from the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow. It was a fresh demonstration of our spiritual and historical affinity. We will always remember those who gave their lives for a peaceful life of future generations.
We talked about the further development of our trade and economic ties. We place a high value on the activities of the Russian-Serbian Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation. Its co-chairs, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yury Borisov and Serbian Minister Nenad Popovic, met a week ago in Moscow, where they coordinated the practical aspects of our collaboration in energy, transport infrastructure, agriculture and industrial production. We also highlighted our efforts to stimulate cooperation in high technology, including the peaceful use of nuclear energy and digitalisation.
We have reaffirmed a common desire to redouble our joint efforts against the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. We have accumulated considerable experience in this field. Our specialists maintain contact on the practical aspects of vaccine development and production.
We highly value the traditionally deep and friendly dialogue between the Russian and Serbian orthodox churches, which is based on the protection of the integrity of the orthodox world and the age-old spiritual canons. Today President Vucic and I attended a ceremony on the completion of the interior decoration of the Church of St Sava, a symbol of our nations’ spiritual affinity. Serbian and Russian masters worked on the project. We also paid tribute to the memory of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.
As Mr President said, today we discussed the entire range of major issues which we are involved in finding a solution to. We reaffirmed our support for the Serbian authorities’ balanced policy of developing mutually beneficial equal ties with all interested countries. It is the underlying principle of Russia’s foreign policy. We welcomed Belgrade’s commitment, which President Vucic has confirmed, to military neutrality and refusal to join anti-Russia sanctions no matter where they come from. I am convinced that Serbia’s policy of neutrality is contributing to stronger peace and stability in the Balkans and hindering the trends aimed at aggravating confrontation in this vital and long-suffering region.
The Dayton Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina was signed 25 years ago. The date is being celebrated these days. We have a common position regarding it. We are committed to its fundamental principles, primarily when it comes to the equality of the three constituent peoples and the two entities, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We spoke about the unsettled problem of Kosovo. We think that the search for any acceptable solution must be based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We pointed out that we would like to see the EU’s role as mediator lead to practical results. The EU mediation has been approved by the UN General Assembly. This mission must be implemented objectively to put an end to Pristina’s open sabotage of the agreements reached years ago, including the pledge to create the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. Our position has not changed. We call for a search for compromises based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and we will only support a decision that will satisfy the Serbs themselves.
I have conveyed warm greeting and best regards from President Vladimir Putin to President Aleksandar Vucic. We reaffirm our firm commitment to the agreements reached between our countries at the top level.
Question: Could you comment on the refusal of two members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic, to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov? What is your opinion on the statement made by the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who compared Milorad Dodik to Hitler? Could you also comment on the Western claim that Russia’s interests in Serbia are used as an instrument of pressure on Belgrade?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding our visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina today, we have shared our impressions with our Serbian friends. As for the incident you have mentioned, I regard it as having little effect on the development of our ties with the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I think that the politicians who made this decision are not independent people. They obviously acted on somebody’s suggestion, and they most likely do not express the interests of their electorate, or at least not the majority of their voters, but rather the interests of the external forces that do not want Russian-Bosnian or Russian-Serbian relations to develop and, in general, are not interested in the West Balkans countries realising their right to have mutually beneficial cooperation with all international partners.
When our delegation was headed for the Balkans several years ago, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, the High Representative of the European Union – the post was at that time held by Federica Mogherini – said that the Balkans were a zone of EU interest and that all others, including Russia, had no place there. This philosophy became deeply ingrained in many European countries long ago, during the colonial and semi-colonial period. It is impossible to do anything about this, but it is possible and necessary to stand up against a completely unacceptable policy and mentality.
As for claims about Russia’s alleged interests in Serbia and the Western efforts to hinder our friendship and cooperation, I answered this question when I spoke about the Western attitude to Russia’s cooperation with Bosnia and with the Balkans as a whole. Serbia is a sovereign state. We respect the desire of Serbia and the Serbian authorities to promote equal and, I would like to emphasise this, mutually beneficial relations with all countries that are interested in this. All our efforts to promote strategic partnership between Moscow and Belgrade are based exclusively on respect for the right of our Serbian friends to do this. I believe that any other approach will clash with modern realities and so will be completely out of place.