Monday, June 16, 2014

Russian FM Lavrov starts two-day visit to Serbia

Belgrade, Moscow -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that he highly appreciates Serbia's position "in favor of uniting, instead of divisions in Europe."
Lavrov and Dačić at the airport on Monday (Tanjug)
Lavrov and Dačić at the airport on Monday (Tanjug)
The high ranking Russian official's plane touched down at Belgrade's Nikola Tesla airport at 15:30 CET on Monday, when he was welcomed by his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dačić.
Addressing reporters, Dačić stressed that Lavrov's two-day visit represented "yet another step in developing political relations between the two brotherly and friendly countries."

"The Russian Federation and Serbia have signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, and we wish to develop our relations further in the spriting of friendship," Dačić, who also serves as Serbia's first deputy prime minister, said.

Lavrov's visit, he added, will be a chance to discuss "all issues of interest to bilateral relations between Serbia and Russia."

"The Serbian people and government welcome the chief of Russia's diplomacy, who is visiting Serbia again after three years, with great joy," Dačić stressed.

In his brief address to reporters, Lavrov stressed that he highly appreciated Serbia's position in favor of uniting instead of divisions in Europe, because, as he said, "Russia wants all countries of the EU and Eurasia to be in a common economic and humanitarian space."

Asked by a foreign reporter to comment on the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov sent the following message to authorities in Kiev:

"We have already said what we had to say, the Ukrainian leadership must end the violence and deal with the gas issue. All cards are on that side of the table."

Dačić and Lavrov lef the airport and headed to the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade and at the Soviet War Memorial, where they placed wreathes.

They will hold a meeting on Tuesday, when the Plan of Consultations between the two foreign ministries for the period 2015-2016 will also be signed.

During his visit to Belgrade the Russian foreign minister will also have meetings with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and President Tomislav Nikolić.

Ahead of Lavrov's arrival, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Chepurin told the daily Politika that "such important issues as South Stream, Ukraine, and Kosovo, will undoubtedly be considered" in meetings with top Serbian officials.

"The awkward statements of some Serbian actors regarding South Stream have created the false impression in the public opinion of Russia that Serbia, contrary to her own interests, was, of her own initiative, suspending the beginning of the pipeline's construction, that such a decision has been made," the ambassador remarked.

Stressing that he hoped the two statements of PM Aleksandar Vučić that followed had "mitigated that impression," Chepurun said the exchange of views with Lavrov "will certainly have a concrete and friendly character," as both sides are interested in the realization of the South Stream project .

According to him, the pipeline will employ thousands of highly qualified people in Serbia and enable the building transport and compressor stations, providing large transits and tax payments to the budget of the country.

"In my opinion, it is natural that countries that are interested in this project also demonstrate their interest, because it corresponds with the interests of the peoples of Europe", said the Russia ambassador.

Lavrov's meetings in Belgrade will particularly be focused on improving the political cooperation between the two countries in accordance with their strategic partnership declaration from May 24, 2013, official of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow.

Lavrov will also discuss international issues and the situation in the Balkans with the Serbian officials.

Economic cooperation will also be an important topic, Lukashevich noted.

Trade between Serbia and Russia in 2013 reached USD 2 billion, or 15 percent more than in 2012, and continues to increase, according to the data from the Russian customs.

Lavrov will also discuss South Stream with his Serbian colleagues, as well as a reconstruction of the Serbian railway system with the help of a USD 800 million loan from Russia.

The joint Russian and Serbia humanitarian center in Niš is operating well and it showed its potential during the recent floods in Serbia, Lukashevich remarked.

Russian rescue and humanitarian teams evacuated around 3,000 people from the flooded areas and delivered more than 100 tons of aid, according to Itar-Tass.

"Considering the close historical and spiritual ties between the two nations, Russia puts particular stress on the whole series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation in World War II," Lukashevich concluded.

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