Ministers: Russia puts no pressure on Serbia

MOSCOW -- Foreign ministers of Russia and Serbia Sergei Lavrov and Ivica Dacic have said that Russia is not exerting political or economic pressure on Serbia.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

"We do not do that. That is a neo-colonialist approach. We cooperate in the harmonization of agreements that are mutually beneficial to both sides and it is not correct to speak about political influencing," Lavrov said, commenting on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement about Russia "putting political and economic pressure on Serbia."

"it is politically not correct to speculate about some political pressure, the more so since such speculations are heard from outsiders not involved in the negotiations," he told a joint news conference in Moscow on Friday, and added:

"As for claims by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini Serbia should not meddle in the dispute between Russia and the West over Ukraine, she must have just picked the wrong words. What she said did not sound European at all. Certainly, it did not sound Italian, either, but smacked of Americanism."

Dacic said that Russia does not exert pressure on Serbia when it comes to "the European orientation" of Belgrade. "We never heard from a single Russian official a proposal or a demand - 'either the EU or Russia'," he said.

"It should be made completely clear, we want to develop relations with Russia that are not detrimental to any side," Dacic added.

The two foreign ministers also stated that the conversation they had on Friday was mostly devoted to the upcoming Serbian chairmanship of the OSCE and future cooperation in the energy sector, as well as deliveries of gas.

"Serbia's interests will be taken into account in the project to build a gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. We also discussed expanding our economic cooperation, and this also applies to Russian gas supplies to Europe," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also spoke about the Serbian chairmanship of the OSCE to say it will be a big challenge, but that Belgrade can be a fair mediator in resolving conflicts, while Dacic said it was an opportunity to show the world "creativity, fairness and a principled approach."

The Russian minister said that Belgrade confirmed that, once it assumes the OSCE helm, it will act objectively and impartially.

"We assume that Serbia will work on the basis of those principles that were previously agreed on in the OSCE," Lavrov said.

Dacic told reporters that it was "extremely important to maintain the cease-fire in Ukraine in order to completely realize the agreement from Minsk and come to a peaceful resolution of the crisis."

"We know that this is the only way to overcome all the problems," Dacic said, adding that next Tuesday he will visit Kiev for talks with Ukraine's foreign minister.

Speaking about Ukraine, Lavrov said there was no dispute with the west, but that instead the west violates obligations. Lavrov also spoke in favor of strengthening and expanding OSCE's monitoring mission in Ukraine, reported the TASS agency.

The two ministers said they support the collective search for ways to strengthen trust and mutual understanding on the European continent.

Brussels’ reaction to the Russian-Serbian emergency response center in the southern Serbian town of Nis "proves attempts to put pressure on sovereign countries," Lavrov said, and added:

“We created the center with our Serbian friends. It benefits both parties to fight floods and conduct humanitarian mine clearing operations. The reaction from Brussels on creation of the center proves that it tries to put pressure on other countries."

Dacic commented on the same issue to say the criticism "has nothing to do with reality."

"I signed the agreement on this center with my friend Sergei Shoigu. It's a good thing that has nothing to do with the west saying it's a military base. Then a question arose if this center has any regional powers. It has no such powers in the essence of being a replacement for any other European mechanisms. The center's staff will work in other countries only if these countries wish that."

The ministers also discussed the South Stream pipeline. Dacic said that Belgrade was disappointed with the situation.

“All of us are disappointed. This is a project in which all of us invested together in economic and energy terms. Serbia needs this project as it guarantees energy security in the country.”

Serbia's president has discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Premier Dmitry Medvedev, he said.

“They will continue talks. At our level, we will certainly back talks to find opportunities in any variant agreed upon with the European Union so Serbia’s interests would not be neglected. We should find an opportunity so implementation of this strategically important project for Serbia will be continued."

Lavrov said that as part of a project to build a gas pipeline from Russia to Europe Serbia's interests will be taken into account.

"We talked about expansion of cooperation in the economic sphere, and this applies to deliveries of Russian gas to Europe," Lavrov said.

Dacic and Lavrov agreed that next year, as the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War II is marked, the OSCE could organize a special event.