Serbia, Canada call for urgent end of Ukrainian conflict

BELGRADE -- Serbia and Canada "share the concern for world peace and call for an urgent end of the conflict in Ukraine and the start of a dialogue."


The two countries' foreign ministers Ivica Dačić and John Baird made the statement after their meeting on Monday in Belgrade.

Baird said that he was pleased that Serbia does not support what he described as "the illegal occupation and aggression by Russia” in eastern Ukraine.

“It is crucial that the international community opposes Russian aggression. Canada looks forward to continue to work with our partners, including Serbia, to make clear that Moscow's ongoing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine are an unacceptable way of treating a sovereign and independent state,” said Baird.

In a joint press conference after his meeting with Dačić, the Canadian foreign minister encouraged Serbia to continue the ongoing reforms and align with the common EU foreign and security policy.

“Serbia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but due to its economic interests and potential risk for its citizens, the country did not participate in the sanctions against Russia, or in the Russian sanctions against the EU,” said Dačić.

He noted that both Ukraine and Russia have a strange approach to sanctions, as Ukraine supported the sanctions against Russia but did not implement them, while Russia did not impose agriculture sanctions on Ukraine.

“If they did not do it, Serbia should not be expected to act against its own interests,” noted Dačić.

The foreign ministers of Serbia and Canada also called for the strengthening of the two countries' bilateral ties, particularly in the field of economy.

Baird welcomed the signing of the Brussels agreement and encouraged Belgrade to continue its efforts to normalize relationship with Pristina and to play a constructive role in the region.

Canada supports the democratic and economic transformation of Serbia which made an encouraging progress, and Serbia's path towards European integration, said Baird, noting that by joining the EU Serbia will become even more attractive for Canadian investors. Canada is interested in Serbia's potential primarily in pharmaceuticals, mining, information technology, agriculture, added Baird.

Dačić pointed out that this is the first visit of a Canadian foreign minister to Serbia after 13 years, and added that Baird's visit is very important for the two countries' bilateral relations.

He said that he informed his Canadian counterpart about Serbia's aspiration to join the EU, about the implementation of internal reforms, the dialogue with Priština, Serbia's commitment to being the factor of peace and stability in the region, and its aim to also develop relations with non-EU countries.

Dačić welcomed Canada's decision to start issuing 10 year multiple entry visas and expressed hope that in the coming period, as Serbia continues to move toward the EU, the visa free travel could be introduced as well.

More than 50 Canadian companies operate in Serbia, where Canada's investments reached several hundred million dollars, Dačić pointed out, noting, however, that the bilateral trade totals only USD 40 million.

Economic cooperation should be enhanced, stressed Dačić, adding that Canadian companies showed interest in Serbia's energy sector.

Baird is on a visit to Belgrade since August 29, at the invitation of Serbian Foreign Minister Dačić.

Belgrade Mayor Siniša Mali received on Sunday Foreign Minister Baird and Canadian Ambassador to Serbia Roman Waschuk, and presented "Serbian capital's most significant project 'Belgrade Waterfront'," Tanjug reported.

Baird said that the project is a sign of a bright future, not only of the country's capital, but of Serbia as a whole.

"Excellent relations"

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić met on Monday with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and noted that the two countries have "excellent relations" but that economic cooperation "needs to be developed further."

The prime minister pointed to the significance of the 2012 agreement on strategic economic cooperation, based on which several projects were launched by Canadian companies in Serbia, mainly in the energy sector.

The signing of the foreign investment protection and promotion agreement will additionally promote the economic cooperation between the two countries and encourage new investment by Canadian companies, the Serbian government said in a statement.

Vučić informed the Canadian minister about the economic reforms and measures to be implemented by the Serbian government, and about Serbia's progress in the EU integration process.

Vučić thanked Canada for the aid it provided to Serbia after the floods that swept across the country in May.

Canada's foreign minister said that the two countries' relations should be promoted at the highest political and economic levels, and added that Canada understands Serbia's foreign policy regarding the EU and Russia, particularly in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.

During his visit to Serbia, Baird also visited the flood-affected areas and announced the possibility of sending a new shipment of aid.