"If US joins Kosovo talks, Russia won't stand aside"
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed in Belgrade on Wednesday evening that Russia and Serbia are partners who do not impose anything on each other.Source: Beta, Tanjug
As he said, Moscow welcomes Serbia's efforts on its path to the EU, but also in relations with the Eurasian alliance.
After his meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Lavrov told reporters that Russia is not asking from Serbia to end any kind of contact with anyone in the world.
"We have always been in favor of partners having the freedom of choice and developing their political ties," he said.
He also said that he did not fear the Ukrainian scenario happening in Serbia.
"We do not fear for Serbia as long as it has a government elected by the people - President Vucic and his team," Lavrov said during a joint news conference with Vucic.
He emphasized that relations between Serbia and Russia are based on international law and a balance of interests.
Lavrov reiterated that countries should not be placed before the false choice of being either with the West or with Russia.
He pointed out that Serbia is cooperating with NATO, but also with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and stressed that Serbia's neutrality is one of the most important factors for stability in the Balkans.
The Russian minister said that he felt at home in Serbia, and that 180 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries was an opportunity to consider the realization of the agreements that presidents Vucic and Putin had reached on during their numerous conversations.
Lavrov also said that his country will not stand aside if the United States is included in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and if Moscow receives Serbia's invitation to join.
He said the EU must take further steps to justify the mediator's role in the dialogue that it has been entrusted with.
"We know that within the framework of accession chapters, the EU is setting some conditions (before Serbia), among other things, some foreign policy issues, including sanctions against Russia and recognition of Kosovo," Lavrov said.
He said that more and more countries in the EU believe that the policy of sanctions against Russia is counterproductive, and added he believed that this request "will not live long."
Lavrov also said that trade exchange between the two countries is constantly growing and currently exceeding USD 2 billion, and noted that ties between the two nations are much older than their diplomatic relations - and these are spiritual and religious ties.
Lavrov announced that he would on Thursday attend the ceremony of the handover of a mosaic installed in the Temple of St. Sava - that was manufactured in Russia, and financed by Russia - and said this was of particular importance for spiritual relations.
According to him, both nations will continue to fight for the rights of Christians.
Lavrov also spoke about the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis, southern Serbia, to say it is working only within its humanitarian mandate - "but it's not clear what our US colleagues are doing in Bondsteel."
"There are no hidden intentions behind the Center. When suspicions were raised about what Russian and Serbian staff were doing, representatives of those who suspected, the US, were invited to visit the center freely. The US representative was able to make sure that the Center deals exclusively with humanitarian work," he said.
"In the same region, in the territory of Serbia, in Kosovo, based on a UN decision, the US (military) base Bondsteel has been created," Lavrov continued.
"There are numerous testimonies that it's not clear what our American colleagues are doing there. In response to these suspicions, they did not invite anyone to come to visit."
Lavrov also said that during its multi-year existence, the Humanitarian Center undertook important operations, cleared vast a territory of mines, assisted with fires and floods in the countries of the region, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Greece.
Russian and Serbian staff working in the Center are performing their duties and fulfilling obligations in accordance with the mandate and providing assistance as needed, as was the case during natural disasters, the Russian minister concluded.