Lavrov meets Cerar, Šarec and Pahor, discusses Western Balkans and Ukraine

Foreign ministers of Slovenia and Russia, Miro Cerar and Sergey Lavrov, confirmed that political ties between the two countries were good, as they addressed the media following a meeting in Ljubljana Wednesday morning. The pair discussed topical issues, above all the Western Balkans. Lavrov also held separate meetings with President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

“Being a member of the EU and NATO, Slovenia is striving for stability in the international community, especially in our neighbourhood, the Western Balkans. Therefore, we support open dialogue with Russia on all topical issues of international significance,” said Cerar. He underlined the importance of the role played by the EU in Western Balkans, while Lavrov said that all open issues in the region must be resolved in a peaceful manner and through political dialogue.

They also commented on tensions in Kosovo triggered earlier this week. Lavrov said that the the tensions were provoked by those who want to make the Balkans a “sanitary cordon” targetting Russia, adding that this is being allowed by the EU and NATO.

Cerar expressed belief that the events will undoubtedly have broader consequences for the relations between Prishtina and Belgrade.

The foreign ministers also talked about other international challenges such as terrorism, the crises in Syria and Libya, the growing tensions between the US and Iran, and relations with China.

“Regarding international issues, we had a candid, constructive and productive exchange of views. We appreciate the fact that Ljubljana, like many other European capitals, favours normalisation of relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union. We share this approach. We see ways to change the current unhealthy situation, ” said Minister Lavrov.

“We covered a number of conflict situations in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. I believe we agree that all this needs to be resolved through political dialogue, which should involve all parties to the conflicts, without giving anyone preferences, as is customary within the UN. The UN Charter enshrines the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes. We believe this applies to all situations that garner the attention of the international community in southeastern Europe and the Middle East, ” Russian Minister pointed out.

Cerar also underlined the need to do everything possible to resolve the Yemen conflict and bring one of the worst humanitarian disasters to an end. Commenting on the Ibiza scandal that recently broke in Austria, Lavrov said that this was a case of Russo-phobia, adding that the noise had died down since it became clear that the alleged Russian oligarch daughter was not who she pretended to be.

“Today, President of Slovenia Borut Pahor, my colleague, Foreign Minister of Slovenia Miro Cerar and I discussed the situation in the region. We see that Slovenia does not share the inclination toward such sanitary cordons. A member of NATO and the EU, Slovenia is against the formation of dividing lines in Europe. They are already deep and Slovenia believes it is necessary to overcome them and develop mutually beneficial cooperation that is open to all interested countries, ” Lavrov said.

The ministers announced that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would visit Russia, accompanied with a business delegation, in mid-September. Lavrov and Cerar confirmed good bilateral cooperation in business, culture and science, with Cerar saying that Russia was a key economic partner to Slovenia. Merchandise trade between the countries amounted to EUR 1.16 billion last year, according to Slovenia’s statistics, while those provided by Russia are even higher. Russia is the fourth most important partner in terms of Slovenia’s foreign direct investments, while Slovenia is becoming an increasingly popular destination among Russian tourists. Cerar added that a bilateral commission for economic cooperation plays an important role in this and that the body would meet in Slovenia on 13 and 14 June.

Moreover, a Slovenian business delegation led by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek is expected at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June. This was the foreign ministers’ second meeting following Lavrov’s arrival on Tuesday. Last night, they met behind closed doors at Strmol Castle, some 20 kilometres north of Ljubljana.

Today, Lavrov also held separate meetings with President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. Pahor said in a tweet that they discussed preparations for the Three Seas Initiative meeting, which Pahor will be hosting next week.

The pair also discussed topical multilateral issues, focusing especially on the Ukraine crisis and the situation in the Western Balkans.

The Ukraine crisis was also discussed in the meeting between Lavrov and Šarec, with the prime minister’s office saying that Slovenia supported a peaceful solution in eastern Ukraine and underlined the importance Minks Agreement implementation. They also discussed bilateral relations, labelling them friendly and adding that the countries are in ongoing dialogue in a number of fields, including economy, culture, science and education.

Source/photo: STA/Slovenian Government, MZZRS