Putin: Russia remains Serbia's ally

Serbian President Boris Tadić told a joint news conference with Russian PM Vladimir Putin that their meeting in Belgrade today was "very successful".

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
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It opens up new perspectives for a whole range of issues, said Tadić after several hours of talks.

The president also stated that he received assurances the South Stream natural gas pipeline project would go ahead as planned.

"We have the highest possible degree of agreement on international policy issues, while Russia's contribution at the UN to the preservation of Serbia's sovereignty and integrity in Kosovo and Metohija is of exceptional importance," Tadić noted.

"Essential contribution to all those processes was made by Putin," the Serbian president praised his guest.

He underscored that the most important conclusion reached during the Wednesday meetings is that "there are no limits to the economic cooperation between Serbia and Russia".

Tadić expressed gratitude to Putin over Russia's support to Serbia in the Kosovo and Metohija issue, Serbia's engagement in Russian global energy plans and Russia's USD 200mn loan to Serbia in times of economic crisis.

"We agreed that the Russian USD 800mn loan should be realized in phases, primarily in the domain of railway, and it will be implemented one project at a time," the president told journalists.

Tadić also said that Serbia's goal was to join the EU, but that it would never neglect its relations with Russia.

Russia is observing the process and it is not worried over Serbia's ambition to become a member of the EU, said Putin.

Moscow and Belgrade are going to work together to make sure Serbia's EU integration does not harm their relations, he noted. The Russian prime minister also urged further strengthening of the centuries-old friendship between the two nations.

Russia has been and will remain Serbia's ally when it comes to Kosovo, said Putin, adding that it was "not necessary to elaborate on the reasons for this, as they are deeply rooted in the two countries' long history of relations and their closeness".

According to Putin, Russia's stand on the Kosovo issue is based on the principles defined in UNSC Resolution 1244, which Moscow will continue to respect because it was not annulled.

"It is solely up to the people of Serbia to decide on how to conduct their policies, any kind of negotiations are better than conflicts and if required to do so, Russia would back the process," Putin said when asked to comment on the Belgrade-Priština dialogue.

As for the South Stream project, Putin said the Serbian arm of the pipeline was discussed today, adding that he informed his hosts about opportunities that it would bring to Serbia.

He stated that Russia's oil and gas giant Gazprom, which bought a majority stake in Serbia's previously state-owned oil company NIS, has already invested USD 250mn, and plans to spend a further USD 500mn this year.

Boris Tadić also spoke to touch on the Kosovo issue, stating that they discussed Russian support for Serbia's initiative before the UN Security Council to have an independent investigator look into the claims made in Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty's report on human organ trafficking in Kosovo and Albania.

The Marty report alleges that members of the ethnic Albanian KLA kidnapped and killed Serb civilians in Kosovo in 1999 and 2000 for their body parts.

"It is needed in order to identify all the culprits, so they could be tried, which would allow for reconciliation in the region," Tadić explained.

Serbia wants a full investigation into the allegations made in the report, as well as into all other war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Tadić stressed.

Putin and Tadić also addressed the situation in Libya and the plight of civilians in that country during their joint news conference.

They urged protection of civilians, and refused to compare the situation in Libya and the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999.

Asked to comment on a recent decision of an assembly of Serb municipalities in Kosovo to declare him an honorary citizen of the province, Putin responded by saying that "anything that benefits Serbia is also in Russia's interest".

Putin said he understood the political background of the question, then noting that anything that benefits Serbia was in Russia's interest.

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