Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following talks with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic, Belgrade, June 18, 2020
Thank you very much, dear Ivica,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are having very useful, intense and trust-based talks in Belgrade on current issues on the bilateral and international agenda.
During our conversation with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and at today’s talks at the Serbian Foreign Ministry we stressed deep historical, spiritual, cultural and civilisational ties between our peoples, which were strengthened during several wars and in the joint struggle for a just cause, including the victory over Nazism. We are continuing to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. We are grateful to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to attend the military parade on Red Square on June 24.
We reviewed the state of our practical cooperation, primarily, in the sphere of economics. We stated a significant growth of trade, by 23 percent last year, and noted in this connection very useful and fruitful efforts by the Intergovernmental Russian-Serbian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic co-chairs its Serbian part, while the Russian co-chair is Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov. This important structure had its latest regular meeting in Kazan in March of this year. Today, we supported the work on following up on the decisions made at that meeting.
We see that large joint strategic projects are underway. Among them is the Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) with Gazprom Neft as its major shareholder. NIS has become a driver of Serbia’s economy and one of the leading regional companies in the Balkans. The cumulative investment exceeds $3 billion with more investment to arrive. The company accounts for 13 percent of Serbia’s budget revenue.
The programme of upgrading railways, pursued with the leading role of RZD International and financed by Russian export loans totalling up to $1 billion, makes a considerable contribution to modernising the Serbian economy. This fairly advanced work results in a greatly improved quality of Serbia’s railways network. This project is expected to greatly enhance the throughput capacity and transit potential of the Serbian railway network.
As we have stated today, there is also good potential for the sphere of high technology including the peaceful use of nuclear energy and outer space. More possibilities are opening up in view of the Free Trade Zone Agreement Serbia and the EAEU signed last autumn.
When considering current international and regional issues, we confirmed the overlapping of our positions in most areas. Moscow and Belgrade are champions of enhancing democratic principles of international life, building up inter-state communication on the solid foundation of international law, primarily the UN Charter. We agreed to continue close coordination at different multilateral venues, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
We reaffirmed our country’s readiness to further support our Serbian partners in defending Serbia’s lawful rights concerning the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. We are united in believing that UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which remains fully in force, plays the principle part in the Kosovo settlement.
We also discussed the situation in other parts of southeastern Europe and in the Balkans. On our part, we expressed support for Serbian leadership’s focus on building constructive neighbourly relations with all nations in the Balkan region. We have a positive view of Belgrade’s efforts to sustain peace and stability in this important part of the European continent.
We are highly satisfied with the outcome of the talks. More meetings are scheduled for today in Belgrade. We will tell you about them afterwards. To conclude, I would like to once again thank our Serbian friends and Ivica personally for their traditional hospitality and friendship. I reaffirm my invitation to him to make a return visit to the Russian Federation.
Question (addressed to Ivica Dacic): Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, recently expressed dissatisfaction with Russia’s and China’s actions concerning help to a number of countries in countering the pandemic. Were their any ultimatums from Brussels or unpleasant points towards Serbia regarding Russia’s assistance to Serbia?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Ivica Dacic): On June 16 of this year, I had a lengthy videoconference with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. He did not state any complaints against us or the PRC related to developments in fighting the coronavirus.
I also heard, like Ivica Dacic, that a number of Western officials are addressing the topic as they comment on their efforts in countering the pandemic. Russia’s actions in terms of support for Serbia, Italy and other countries were branded by them several times as propaganda, “Potyomkin villages” etc. Our Western colleagues cautioned some partners who asked us for additional assistance against doing that. They declared that Russia had never done anything for anybody for free. We have sayings about guilty conscience, “God marks the crook,” “Everyone talks of their own sores.” And there is also a saying which runs “It takes a twisted mind to think twisted thoughts” or the other way round. If some Western analysts believe that when someone helps others with something, he is entitled to get something in return, then it means that the liberal circles themselves have such values. In our circle with Serbia and other nations, who follow truly Christian, Orthodox values, selfless assistance is normal among friends.
Question: What kind of information did you relate to Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic that bewildered him so much? Was it something like Resolution 1244, where Russia prevented the UN Security Council from calling Serbs “a genocidal nation?” If you could lay out the details, what sort of a compromise solution is that?
Sergey Lavrov: You don’t need to make things up any more. With such capabilities you should join the negotiating team, then you will be able to suggest your own compromises.
It has been said already that we did not “relate information” but rather exchanged assessments of the events that are in plain view of everyone, the ideas in public space that to a certain extent cause Serbia’s concern, which we share.