"Serbia must remain neutral on Ukraine as OSCE chair"

Former Serbian FM Vuk Jeremić "has no plans for now for political engagement," and discusses a conference in Belgrade dedicated to WW1, and Serbia's stance on Ukraine

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"I'm focused on the work of the Center for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development, of which I want to make an institution that is recognized internationally. The conference that will be organized by the CIRSD in Belgrade, is a sign that we're going in that direction," the former Serbian foreign minister and former UN General Assembly president told B92 TV on May 29.

Jeremić, who a former member of the Democratic Party (DS), also said he does not follow the of developments in that party "a lot."

He would not directly answer when asked whether he planned to run for the position of UN secretary-general after Ban Ki-moon's mandate expires. Jeremić, however, said that the issue of candidates for such important positions in international institutions was one for the state, and a question of strategy.

According to Jeremić, the candidate to replace Ban Ki-moon should come from Eastern Europe, and asked whether he could be a nominee, if Serbia put forward that proposal, he said: "It makes no sense to talk now about it, it is an issue for the state and has nothing to do with my ambitions. The state must first of all declare itself on that."

Speaking about the international conference organized in Belgrade on May 30 and 31, with the First World War as its main topic, Jeremić said that it was precisely this war that was in many ways one of the decisive events in modern history, and that "everything that happened later had its roots in it."

"The First World War is important for our country and represents one of the more glorious pages of our history. We lost almost a quarter of the population fighting for our freedom and that of others," he noted, adding:" It is important to look back and see what was happening and how, especially as today we have a situation as it is in many ways similar to that in 1914."

According to him, the aim of the conference is to address an attempt to revise history, i.e., to mark Serbia as the culprit for the outbreak of the war. Another goal is "to draw some lessons from history."

Participants will include Christopher Clark, author of "The Sleepwalkers", which provoked strong reactions in Serbia because it largely deals with the role of our country in the war, but also prominent international experts who hold different opinions.

"They will have the opportunity to cross their views and I expect they will have different opinions, which was the idea of ​​the conference. This will help us better understand history, and other topics that are being pushed, in the form of revisionism, will fall by the wayside when important opinions are confronted," said Jeremić.

"I believe that this kind of view, that we Serbs are to blame for the First World War, will not prevail and it is good that this is discussed in an international conference precisely in Belgrade," he added.

The second day of the gathering will be devoted to the current situation, what the world is today and what it was like in 1914, with special emphasis on three key points: the Middle East, East Asia and certainly the most current international issue, Ukraine, Jeremić announced.

Ukraine will, as he pointed out, certainly be the most interesting topic, and the debate will be attended by the daughter of Nikita Khrushchev, as well as by Jeffrey Sachs, Natalia Narushnitska, and OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier.

Asked whether he sees the situation related to Ukraine as a new Cold War, Jeremić said that a crisis was unfolding before out eyes whose consequences will be felt by everyone for many years, and most of all, by the citizens of Ukraine. "I think the big losers are both the EU and Russia, which are increasingly cooling their relations and this will have major consequences for the whole world," said the CIRSD director.

"There's also the U.S., which is not directly affected, but their interests will be at stake. Because, in such an atmosphere it will be impossible to cooperate in the field of international activities. I have Syria and all other international issues in mind, which are discussed at the international level," he added.

Jeremić pointed out to other important global issues that would suffer because of the tensions around Ukraine, and as an example mentioned that in the next year and a half discussions about the development of a UN strategy on climate change must be completed. "In a situation like this, when the two poles are very much opposed, it will be very difficult," said Jeremić, and claimed that a lack of agreement on climate change meant that "what happened to Serbia, in the form of the catastrophic flooding, could become a very common phenomenon."

As for Serbia's position on Ukraine, Jeremić believes that its policy of not taking either side is the only right one for now, and noted that it must remain this way because Serbia will soon take over the presidency of the OSCE.

"And the OSCE is the only organization that has been active in Ukraine, and the OSCE chair must be neutral. This is the position of Switzerland today, which currently holds the chairmanship," said Jeremić, adding that those countries that are putting pressure on Serbia because of our stance about the crisis in Ukraine also participate in the work of the OSCE, "which must remain neutral."

Jeremić concluded by saying that the manner in which Serbia will present itself during the year of its presidency - that is, whether it will be successful - will depend on our position, "and how we will be seen later in connected to our stance on Ukraine."

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