Russian FM Lavrov arrives in Croatia

NEWS 16.12.2020 13:54
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Source: Matija Habljak/PIXSELL

Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, arrived in Croatia on Wednesday on an official visit which had been postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic-Radman described this visit – Lavrov’s first to Croatia in 16 years – as an “incentive to continue the positive trend” in the relations between the two countries. 

Lavrov, who also met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic, has invited Grlic-Radman to visit Russia. 

“The European Union is not quite ready for good relations with Russia, but Russia has good relations with Croatia,” Lavrov said. 

Grlic-Radman said the two talked about “the possibilities of intensifying cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation, despite current challenges.”

“Communication channels should stay open,” he added. 

Russia’s stance on Dayton Accords

Lavrov’s visit to Croatia was part of a tour which included Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Two members of the BiH Presidency refused to receive him, dissatisfied with his stand on BiH’s NATO and EU integration, as well as the Dayton Accords.

In Zagreb, Lavrov reiterated that Moscow was strongly committed to honouring the peace agreement. “We have a common uniform stand” on the respect for the equality of the three constituent peoples, he said.

Speaking of changing the Electoral Law in Bosnia, which Croats in that country demand, Lavrov said Bosnia should decide on its political goals on its own. “Everybody should respect those decisions. Everybody should understand that all three peoples should be respected (because) there is no Bosnia without that.”

In that sense, it is also necessary to respect the stands of Bosnia’s Serb entity, he said.

Moscow is against revising the Dayton Accords, Lavrov said in Sarajevo on the 25th anniversary of the agreement which ended the war in Bosnia, but the general assessment today was that Moscow demands an upgrade so that Bosnia can become a functioning and progressive state.

In Sarajevo, Lavrov also called for closing the Office of the High Representative, saying that Bosnia does not need an “international protectorate”. He also supported Republika Srpska’s stand on “military neutrality” and accused NATO of undermining international stability.

Because of those statements, BiH Presidency members Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic refused to receive him, accusing Russia of opposing Bosnia’s strategic goals to join NATO and the EU. They said they did not want to be Russia’s pawn in the Balkans in its score-settling with EU member states or NATO.

A day later in Belgrade, Lavrov said Dzaferovic and Komsic were not deciding autonomously but defending on others’ orders the interests of outside forces not interested in Western Balkan countries building “mutually beneficial cooperation with all external partners.” Both Dzaferovic and Komsic refuted the claim. 

Russia ‘used to constant accusations by US and the West’

In Zagreb, Lavrov said Moscow was “used to constant accusations by Western countries and the U.S.”

“That only shows our partners’ lack of respect for ethical norms. That’s not in line with international norms,” he said, accusing the U.S. of obstructing Eastern Mediterranean countries’ cooperation with Russia. “They are prohibiting Mediterranean countries from cooperating with Russia.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “Russia continues to threaten the stability of the Mediterranean” and “spread chaos” among countries in the region.

The U.S. is trying to undermine Orthodoxy, including in Ukraine, said Lavrov.

Asked when President Vladimir Putin would visit Croatia, he said it would occur when conditions allowed.

Lavrov is also scheduled to attend the inauguration of a new Russian Embassy building, and he signed two agreements with Grlic-Radman – a programme of cooperation in culture in 2020-22 and a plan of consultations between the two foreign ministries in 2021-22.

Russia is interested in opening a science and culture centre in Croatia, Lavrov said, adding he hoped that the intergovernmental commission for cooperation in trade, the economy, science, and technology would resume work soon.