Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia Davor Ivo Stier, Moscow, May 23, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have held talks with my Croatian colleague, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Davor Ivo Stier, on the eve of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries, which we will celebrate in two days.
We held constructive discussions of the main issues on the bilateral agenda, as well as regional and international matters.
Our political dialogue is developing dynamically, and ties between our parliaments and agencies are growing stronger. A representative delegation of the Russian Supreme Court led by the court’s chairman, Vyacheslav Lebedev, is staying in Croatia now. Martina Dalic, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Minister of Economy, Small and Medium Entrepreneurship and Crafts, will attend the upcoming St Petersburg International Economic Forum. In mid-June, President of the Croatian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Miro Kovac and Croatian MPs from the Croatia-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group will make a visit to Moscow.
We have held a principled discussion of our trade and economic ties and have agreed to strengthen the nascent trend towards the revival of our trade, which developed this year. We expect the Intergovernmental Russian-Croatian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation to greatly contribute to these efforts. We have noted with satisfaction that the commission’s three working groups have become much more active. The trade and economic group held a meeting in April, and the working groups on energy and tourism will convene in June. Today we have agreed to prepare and hold a full-scale meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission by the end of the year.
We also discussed our investment cooperation, which has good development prospects. A recent example is the installation of the third unit, which was manufactured by Russia’s Power Machines and Technopromexport, at Croatia’s Sisak thermal power plant 18 months ago. These companies are interested in joining other projects to build thermal and hydroelectric power plants in Croatia. There are good cooperation opportunities in shipbuilding (Croatian experts are contributing to the manufacturing of a gas tanker for the Yamal LNG project), robotics and banking.
We talked about the situation in Southeast Europe, in the Balkans, with a focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have reaffirmed our commitment to the underlying principles of that country’s existence as per the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Peace Agreement, which was signed in 1995. These principles are the equality of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs as the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the broad powers of the two entities – the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe that the underlying principles of the Dayton Peace Agreement must be fully complied with and must not be revised in any manner whatsoever.
We also exchanged our opinions and concerns regarding the situation in Macedonia, where the activities of some opposition members supported by external forces have endangered the Macedonian state. We call for settling this crisis in strict compliance with the Macedonian Constitution.
As for Kosovo issues, we supported the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and all agreements that were reached by Belgrade and Pristina with the mediation of the European Union. During the dialogue with our Croatian colleagues we noted with regret that the Pristina representatives are trying to depart from these agreements.
Overall, we supported the continuation of regional dialogue in Southeast Europe with a view to peaceful settlement of all the differences. In this context we thanked our Croatian colleagues for information about the development of their relations with Serbia.
Russia made repeated statements on relations between Moscow and Brussels. The relations between Russia and the European Union leave much to be desired. Meanwhile, as President Vladimir Putin observed, the expansion of economic cooperation between Russia and European countries could promote trust in the entire Eurasia. Development of direct contacts between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union would also facilitate this.
We exchanged opinions on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily, Syria and Iraq and emphasised the need to mobilise the efforts of the world community to counter international terrorism. We noted that many states, including those outside the Middle East, for instance in the Balkans and the post-Soviet space, are producing more and more foreign terrorist fighters that are spreading out in different regions and may well return to the countries of their origin. We agreed to coordinate our efforts in countering this threat. In this context we expressed our condolences to the government and people of the United Kingdom and all those who fell victim to the act of terror in the Manchester United Arena this night.
We believe all crises in the Middle East and North Africa should be settled via national dialogue with the participation of all ethnic and religious groups. This applies to Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. We also pointed out that many nations and representatives of many religions are suffering from this conflict. Christians are subjected to particular discrimination. We agreed to continue and build up cooperation in the Council of Europe and the UN Human Rights Council, and conduct events to support and protect Christians in this region.
As far as Ukraine is concerned, Russia, like Croatia, is committed to a consistent and full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We hope that this approach, which is shared by the entire world community, will be heard in Kiev, where comments have been made in recent time that may be interpreted as attempts to withdraw from the Minsk Package of Measures.
Generally, we are satisfied with the results of the talks that have confirmed our shared readiness for a progressive development of the entire system of our relations on a mutually beneficial basis. We have agreed to maintain contacts between our foreign ministries. We have a two-year Plan of Consultations, in keeping with which we regularly hold exchanges of views, or touch base, as the saying goes.
I am grateful to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Davor Ivo Stier and to all members of his delegation for a very constructive meeting.
Question: Is the Russian Federation following the Agrokor situation? Can it have some political underpinnings?
Sergey Lavrov: To be honest, we don’t see any political underpinnings. We discussed this issue earlier today along with a number of topics related to our economic and investment cooperation. We see good prospects for cooperation between our relevant organisations in the banking area. As you may know, Sberbank and VTB Group are members of the committee of creditors of Agrokor. Given the problems faced by the holding, our bankers are certainly interested in this organisation’s recovery. Today, we addressed this issue from the point of view of Croatian legislation. I am sure that the issue should be solved by the direct participants.
There is just one political aspect here: both our parties will support the solution found satisfactory by our banks and Agrokor.
Question: Does Russia see any improvements in the situation concerning the operation of Zarubezhneft? Do you know that the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, is against connecting gas and oil pipelines?
Sergey Lavrov: We are ready to discuss the issue you have raised. It concerns the environmental situation around the Brod Oil Refinery in Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which Russia’s Zarubezhneft owns. Air pollution is an old issue. A trilateral monitoring mechanism comprising representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the refinery owners was created several years ago, or more precisely in 2012. We believe that this trilateral working group, which was set up for environmental monitoring, should be used more effectively and comprehensively. Calculations show that the current plan for reducing the emission of pollutants from the refinery corresponds to Bosnian standards.
However, as my colleague has said, we believe that talks should continue. Zarubezhneft is negotiating with gas system operators in Croatia, including the state-owned Geoplin Group, to build a short 10-km low pressure gas pipeline for connecting the Brod Oil Refinery to the gas network. There are no obstacles to this. There is a desire to settle this issue in the most effective manner economically and in terms of bringing gas supply to the region. We firmly believe that this issue can be settled, that the solution won’t be expensive, and that all parties understand what should be done next. I am convinced that practical forms of connecting users to the gas supply system can be found through direct negotiations with Republika Srpska and the federal authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.