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Remarks and replies to questions by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a joint press conference on the results of talks with Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in Moscow on 19 December 2014

28-12-2014, 01:40

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m sincerely pleased to welcome to Moscow my Serbian colleague and friend, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. Our talks have been useful and detailed, focusing primarily on OSCE issues in the context of the Serbian Presidency of it in 2015.

We both believe that in the current difficult situation in Europe it is very important to conduct a collective search for ways of enhancing trust and mutual understanding on our continent and the rest of the Euro-Atlantic Region. In this context we emphasised the importance of promoting the Helsinki+40 process and establishing the Group of Wise Men, about which we agreed at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel on 4-5 December. We noted the importance of the 70thanniversary of the victory in World War II coming up next year. The Council in Basel adopted a special declaration to this effect. We think that the OSCE is well equipped to hold special events devoted to this date in May 2015.

We’ve discussed the OSCE’s role in settling the domestic crisis in Ukraine, and supported the efforts of its representative in the Contact Group and the activities of its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which we are ready to expand and consolidate.

It is essential to concentrate efforts on facilitating reconciliation and ceasefire, resolution of humanitarian issues, including relief, all-for-all exchange of hostages, and last but not least, the start of national dialogue of all regions and political forces for discussing Ukraine’s constitutional arrangement and its future in general. We believe that the OSCE can do a lot for creating conditions for open and unbiased investigation into the human rights violations and tragedies that took place on Maidan Square in February and in Odessa and Mariupol in May. Russia will actively contribute to this work, in particular, by taking part in the Contact Group and sending its specialists and observers to the Special Monitoring Mission.

We’ve emphasised our readiness to take part in the OSCE's work, chaired by Serbia, on other conflicts, including the activities of the Minsk Group co-chairs on Nagorno-Karabakh, the 5+2 format of the Transnistria settlement and the Geneva discussions on security in the South Caucasus. We’ll maintain cooperation with the Serbian Presidency on other issues as well.

As Mr Dacic has just emphasised, we proceed from the premise that Serbia will follow the earlier agreed-upon OSCE principles of an objective, unbiased approach with due account of the interests of all participants.

We’d like to contribute to the efforts in the areas that Serbia has chosen as its priorities: ensuring higher stability and security, improving living standards and consolidating the OSCE. We believe the OSCE could help harmonise various integration processes in Europe and launch dialogue on the formation of common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific with reliance on the principles of indivisible security and broad cooperation.

We hope that OSCE will continue taking measures against terrorism and drug trafficking, and monitoring elections. We’ll suggest holding in 2015 a conference on countering Christianophobia to follow a series of meetings on the issues of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in 2014.

Today we reviewed key areas of our bilateral cooperation, in particular, following the visit of President Vladimir Putin to Serbia on October 16, 2014, which was timed to the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi occupation. We are steadily developing trade, economic and investment ties, as well as humanitarian and parliamentary contacts. We’ve expressed our common satisfaction on bilateral cooperation and reaffirmed our striving to deepen it in the field of energy, including Russian gas supplies, with consideration for Serbia’s interest in laying new routes for Russia’s hydrocarbon deliveries to Europe.

We’ve discussed the South Stream situation, which you are well aware of. I’m convinced that decisions made in the new circumstances will consider Serbia’s interests; we’ll do all we can to ensure this.

Question: Recently, some European politicians have said that Russia is purportedly stepping up pressure on west Balkan countries, in particular Serbia. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the sidelines of a recent G20 summit that the Russian Federation is trying to keep some west Balkan countries under an economic and political blockade. Just recently, during her visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, urged Moscow not to drag Belgrade into the EU-Russia dispute over Ukraine. Russian experts on the Balkans note that Serbia will soon have to choose between the EU and Russia, while Russia should intensify its influence on Serbia and the region as a whole. What is your opinion on these statements by European politicians? What, in this context, is your view of Serbia’s position in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: Your question is complicated. With regard to the allegations that were made against Russia during the G20 Summit in Brisbane, to the effect that, as you have just mentioned, it is working to increase Serbia’s political and economic dependence on Russia, I will say that we are not doing that. This is some “neocolonial” jargon. As with all of our other partners, we coordinate mutually beneficial projects with Serbia. I believe that it is simply wrong to speak about political pressure, especially on the part of those who are not a party to the bilateral negotiation process.

Regarding Federica Mogherini’s remarks, which you have mentioned, to the effect that Serbia should not become involved in the dispute between Russia and the West on the Ukraine crisis, I think she simply misspoke. This sounds un-European, definitely un-Italian, but more US-like, considering the European and US mentalities. We do not see any dispute with the West over Ukraine, but what we can see is a series of actions by our Western partners, which led either to a coup, with total impunity, as Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference yesterday, or to inaction, in breach of their obligations.

Having signed the 21 February agreement, the West undertook to support the creation of a national unity government in Ukraine, but has not done that. In April, our Western partners refused to support the immediate launch of constitutional reform with the participation of all of the country’s regions and political forces. They have not fulfilled those obligations either. Meanwhile, there is total connivance over everything the “party of war” is doing in Kiev, including complete silence over the outrageous lustration law (which has already been criticised by the Venetian Commission but the enlightened EU and US have remained silent), support for the executive order on the economic blockade of the southeast, a lack of concern over inaction in the investigation of various crimes committed in Ukraine, and many other things.

When they speak about some dispute, perhaps it exists. We believe that all of the agreements that I have mentioned should be implemented, including the national unity agreement, the Geneva agreement regarding the immediate start of constitutional reform with the participation of all the regions, the investigation of crimes and many others. Perhaps this is why we are in dispute. The Ukrainian issue affects all the European and OSCE countries without exception, not only the West and Russia. If somebody has forgotten this, next year, Serbia will hold the OSCE chairmanship. So, in my opinion, Federica Mogherini’s remarks are inappropriate, at the very least.

Question (for Ivica Dacic): What is the Serbian government’s position on the work of the Russian-Serbian humanitarian centre in the city of Nis? Are there any difficulties in ensuring its full-fledged operation?

Sergey Lavrov (adds, after Ivica Dacic): I would like to confirm what Ivica Dacic has said. We established this Centre together with our Serbian friends, and it is already producing results during floods and mine clearing operations, which is quite important for this part of the Balkans. Funds were released (I believe, around $70 million) for the implementation of these programmes in the next three years. All that is left is to sign the document establishing the status of Centre employees and their immunities. Insofar as participation in emergency operations is concerned, involving risk to life, such issues should of course be settled.

Ivica Dacic mentioned the reaction from Brussels, showing that the EU is in fact seeking to exert pressure on various countries.

Question: Recently, Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko publicly proposed taking away Russia’s veto power at the UN Security Council. The veto power played a significant role in Kosovo, impeding its recognition. Is it possible that [ethnic] Russians living in eastern Ukraine will follow the fate of Croatian Serbs?

Sergey Lavrov: Poroshenko has worked in several official positions in previous governments, including as foreign minister. I cannot suspect him of ignorance regarding the UN Charter, which makes no provisions for the procedure that he referred to. The call to expel Russia from the UN Security Council as its permanent member, the high-profile bill on the abolition of Ukraine’s non-bloc status, and Poroshenko’s executive order on the economic blockade of the southeast is nothing but a tribute to rhetoric, which is to be expected from the “party of war” in Kiev. It is sad that such a party exists and that it urges a repetition in southeastern Ukraine of an operation that was carried out in Serbian Krajina, when the issue – “the restoration of territorial integrity” – was, as they said at the time, resolved through the use of force. Our Western partners welcomed, not merely accepted that.

I act on the assumption that President Poroshenko consistently (and he reiterated this several days ago) advocates the peaceful resolution of all issues related to the current situation in the southeast. This path is the basis of the Minsk Agreements that were reached on Poroshenko’s initiative, taking into account the proposals made by President Putin. Today, there is plenty of talk about the need to implement these agreements. You may recall that in addition to a ceasefire, the exchange of POWs, security guarantees, amnesty and the restoration of economic ties, they provide for a genuine nationwide dialogue with the participation of all of the country’s regions and political forces. If everyone supports the Minsk Agreements in their entirety, then everything that is said and signed should be acted upon.

Question: Regarding the resolution on the creation of the Palestinian state that was submitted to the UN Security Council, what are the prospects for the resolution of the Middle East conflict?

Sergey Lavrov: Our country recognised the State of Palestine in the late 1980s. So we have no problem with the recognition of Palestinian statehood, as proposed in the draft resolution. There are questions about the way the peace process will continue in the future. Russia is currently in intensive contact with the Palestinians and other parties to the “quartet” of international mediators on the Middle East peace process, to understand how this situation can affect the efforts to guide the peace process out of the impasse it reached this year.

It would be counterproductive to go into details now. We are working with the parties involved to ensure that they are aware of their responsibility for a final settlement, including all issues related to the status of the Palestinian state. We would like this to happen as soon as possible. 


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