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Lavrov calls for implementing agreement on establishing Serb municipalities in Kosovo

According to the Russian foregin minister, agreements on establishing Serb municipalities in Kosovo reached back in August of last year with EU’s mediation, are sabotaged
Sergey Lavrov and Ivica Dacic Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
Sergey Lavrov and Ivica Dacic
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 1. /TASS/. The European Union (EU) should influence Pristina to implement agreements on establishing Serb municipalities in Kosovo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday after the meeting with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic.

"Unfortunately, the rights of Serb population in this place [Kosovo] are violated daily, agreements reached on establishing Serb municipalities in Kosovo back in August of last year with EU’s mediation, are sabotaged," Lavrov said. "Sabotaging practical implementation of these agreements does not arise a coherent reaction from Brussels. We are concerned with this. We think that it is necessary for EU to confirm its reputation as an active mediator and influence Pristina, make Kosovar-Albanian leaders fulfill what they signed," he added.

Lavrov also reminded about EU’s commitments on ensuring work of a special court on crimes committed at war in Kosovo as The Hague the establishment of such court earlier this year. "we do not see yet this special court at work. On the contrary, there are facts that show that those who represent opposition political movements in Kosovo now are trying to disrupt this agreement like they are disrupting an agreement on establishing Serb municipalities in Kosovo," Lavrov added. "There is special responsibility on EU here. It decided to serve as a mediator, it prevented the Kosovo problem from being considered in UN Security Council. Now they will have to hold accountable in full accordance with the commitments that they assumed," he concluded.

Russia to provide assistance to Serbia in dealing with migration crisis

According to the diplomat, Russia will extend assistance to Serbia in dealing with the migration crisis.

"We discussed the situation in the Balkans, in particular, in the context of the migration crisis," he said. "We know that Serbia is under pressure. The humanitarian center in Nis has opened temporary accommodation centers for refugees. We will provide assistance to help Serbia cope with this problem."

The Russian side will formalize the status of the employees of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Serbia’s Nis in the near future.

"We understand what kind of feelings the Serbs have towards Russia, Russian citizens, we appreciate this," he said. "We are also aware of serious negative memories of the Serbs regarding the NATO aggression. We realize that life goes on, and it is necessary to develop relations."

"That’s how we see the relations between the Serbs and NATO taking into account the memories of the NATO aggression," Lavrov said. "Of course, NATO is interested in providing maximum protection for their staff involved in potential activities on Serbian territory. Immunity matters are more important to NATO than to Russians."

"In addition to the de facto status to provide immunity and privileges to our citizens at this stage within the framework of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis, we will formalize this status de jure at an early date," Lavrov said.

"Given that international law requires a higher degree of immunity agreements, we hope that there will be a relevant agreement before the visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Serbia," Russia’s top diplomat noted. "I would not like our partners in the EU to continue telling horror stories about this center in Nis that it teems with ‘Russian spies’ and cause artificial problems in relations with us, the Serbs and the EU," Lavrov said.

"During the years of its existence we have repeatedly offered the U.S. and EU to visit this center in response to speculations. As we would expect, our colleagues turn down these offers, they are well aware that their assumptions are false," he said.

The minister described EU attempts to prevent Syria from humanitarian cooperation with Russia as unscrupulous.

For his part, Dacic noted that the activities of the humanitarian center were purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with spying. According to him, Western accusations about the involvement of the center’s staff in espionage are "nonsense." "The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center is not crawling with spies, they have nothing to do in Nis," he said. "Spies are sent to hostile territories, and the Serbs love Russia even more than some Russians do."

The Serbian Foreign Minister spoke out against politicizing the issue of the center’s activities by the EU. "This is not a military base, there are no spies there or anything that would pose a threat," he said. "There are only people there who help other people when it comes to floods, fires or mine clearance. Unexploded mines, bombs and shells have to be neutralized on a considerable part of Serbian territory.".

Moscow appreciates Serbia’s refusal to join EU anti-Russian sanctions

Moscow appreciates Serbia’s refusal to join the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, the Russian minister went on to say.

"We highly appreciate Serbia’s principled position in regard to those attempts that the EU is making to mobilize the countries that are not part of the EU for anti-Russian steps," Lavrov said.

Russia is satisfied by good cooperation with Serbia as part of foreign ministries, Lavrov said. "I would like to especially note the high level of cooperation last year during Belgrade’s chairmanship in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [OSCE]."

Relations with EU, NATO should not hamper contacts with other countries

Lavrov also said that Russia and Serbia agree that bilateral contacts with NATO and EU should not hamper cooperation with those countries that are not members of these structures.

"We exchanged opinions on cooperation in the framework of OSCE, discussed relations between our countries and EU, NATO," Lavrov said. "We have common approaches that these relations should not be used for attempts to limit opportunities for partners to develop cooperation with the countries that are not members of these organizations," he added.

Progress in investment cooperation between Russia, Serbia

The official also dwelled on investment cooperation between the countries. 

"Our investment cooperation, which has been on the rise, has fairly good prospects," Lavrov said after the talks with Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic on Friday.

According to Lavrov, the modernization of the Serbian oil industry with Gazprom Neft’s guiding role may be considered as one of examples of successful cooperation.

"There is a whole range of other projects both in the gas sector and in the railroad infrastructure, as well as banking," he said, adding that all those areas "have been showing a meaningful progress."

"We appreciate a very substantive political dialogue," Russia’s top diplomat said reminding of visits to Moscow paid by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in October 2015 and President Tomislav Nikolic this March. "There is an invitation for Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to visit Serbia," Lavrov added.

Along with the political dialogue, Russia and Serbia are developing cooperation in other areas.

"An intergovernmental committee for trade and economic cooperation is working intensively. The military and technical cooperation is developing," Lavrov said, adding that this was discussed at the meetings of Dacic with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

"I hope that today we will have a chance to discuss in detail our cooperation as part of foreign policy ministries and talk issues of Europe, the Balkans and the international environment in general," Lavrov said.