Russia to approve loan to prop Serbia's budget

Russia will approve a loan to support Serbia's state budget, thus enabling for regular payment of salaries and pensions from the budget, Tanjug has learned.

Source: Beta, Tanjug

Quoting diplomatic sources, the news agency said that this was one result of the meeting held today in the Black Sea resort of Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolić.

The two leaders also discussed the need to sign a strategic partnership agreement between Serbia and Russia as soon as possible.

Putin and Nikolić further agreed that construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline in the territory of Serbia would start by the end of this year, and on the financing of a series of energy, baking sector and infrastructure projects.

Earlier in the afternoon, it was reported that Nikolić had invited Putin to visit Serbia and open works on the part of the South Stream pipeline that will be built in this country.

"We expect the South Stream works to begin in Serbia. Russian and Serbian specialists think that may happen in early December and asked me to convey to you an invitation to attend the beginning of the works," he said.

The South Stream pipeline is one of the main topics of discussions between Nikolić and Putin.

Putin, greeting Nikolic, recalled their brief meeting a few months ago and said he would take advantage of this meeting to analyze bilateral relations, especially trade and economic, which, he added, are in a stalemate after the growth in the first half of last year.

According to the Russian president, the talks also focused on "the situation in the region".

Nikolić, who in an interview for the Russian television ahead of his trip to Sochi praised the ties between the two countries, added that the meeting was "the beginning of a completely new relationship between Russia and Serbia".

The talks continued behind closed doors.

Working visit

Nikolić is paying a working visit to Russia on Tuesday upon the invitation of President Putin, and this will be their second meeting this year with a view to deepening bilateral relations.

According to a statement from the Kremlin press service issued ahead of the meeting, they will discuss economic cooperation, the South Stream project and the Kosovo issue, "which should be resolved through dialogue".

The meeting will focus on constructive cooperation in terms of Kosovo, and both countries have a principled stance that the solution to the problem should be found by means of the Belgrade-Priština agreement and based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, it was also said.

The Kremlin said that trade and economic cooperation will be in the focus, noting that the scope of the two countries' trade in 2011 went up by 42 percent when compared to 2010, amounting over two billion dollars.

The statement pointed to a number of mutually useful projects - between 2003 and 2011 the Russian investments in the Serbian economy surpassed USD 1.5 billion - and very close ties in the energy sector, with Russian Gazprom Neft, which owns 51 percent of shares of NIS, and Lukoil as key players.

Beta news agency is reporting that Nikolić's working visit to Russia will not see the signing of any documents or agreements, including that on the strategic partnership between the two countries, which was drafted almost a year ago.

Instead, this agreement could be signed during an official visit of either president - which could happen by the end of the year.

Ahead of Nikolić's trip to Sochi, Russian Ambassador in Belgrade Aleksandr Konuzin told the local media that Russia expects to hear about Serbia's plans, and especially, its platform for Kosovo:

"Moscow expects that the meeting will have important consequences for bilateral relations. Our premise is that the Serbian president will give his appraisal of the current political situation in Serbia, the mood in the society, the plans of the new Serbian government, and the problems that Serbia faces, especially in the economy."

Russia is particularly interested in the progress in drafting Serbia's new platform to solve the Kosovo problem.

"This is important to us, because our position remains principled and on Serbia's side in this, for Serbia, exceptionally important issue," said Konuzin.

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