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Moscow's Approval Necessary For Any Deal Between Serbia, Kosovo, Lavrov Says


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speak to reporters after meeting on June 18 in Belgrade.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia's approval would be required for any solution reached in peace talks between Kosovo and Serbia, whose leaders are scheduled to meet in the White House next week.

Speaking in Belgrade on June 18, Lavrov said the Kremlin would only support solutions to the Kosovo question acceptable to Belgrade and approved by the UN Security Council.

Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo negotiations, last week said he had received commitments from both countries to meet in Washington on June 27 for talks aimed at leading to a normalization of relations.

Grenell said Serbia had committed to "temporarily pause the de-recognition campaign" and Kosovo agreed to pause its efforts to win more international memberships in order to meet at the White House to try to resume talks that have been on hold for more than a year.

Lavrov said that the European Union had a mandate from the UN General Assembly to negotiate in the dispute and it should be the entity that carries out those duties.

Grenell said the White House meeting "opens the door to new economic development and investment.'' In a statement to the Associated Press on June 18, he said the United States "hopes leaders in Kosovo and Serbia will seize this chance to return to dialogue and begin a new era of stability and prosperity. The people of this region deserve nothing less."

The EU mediator in the talks, Miroslav Lajcak, said an EU role was necessary for any future deal and said Washington hadn't contacted Brussels on its latest summit initiative.

"We communicate with our partner the U.S. on our initiatives and we expect them to do the same," Lajcak said. "A good agreement would bring Kosovo and Serbia closer to the EU and I don't believe that such an agreement can be reached without the EU presence there."

Lajcak said that the Brussels-facilitated dialogue would resume soon and the date would be set after his visit to Belgrade next week.

Kosovo was part of Serbia until an armed uprising by the ethnic Albanian majority population in 1998-99 triggered a Serbian crackdown. This in turn prompted a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia to force its troops out of Kosovo. Belgrade and Moscow both refuse to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

Lavrov's visit comes three days ahead of elections in Serbia and is widely seen as a sign of support for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Vucic said no resolution of Serbia's future relationship with its former province would be possible without Moscow's consent and said he would reject European Union membership if Belgrade did not receive concessions in return for recognizing Kosovo and dropping attempts to stop it joining the United Nations.

"In reply to a possible offer [to Serbia] to recognize Kosovo and that Kosovo enters the UN, and we receive nothing in return, except EU membership, our answer would be 'no,'" Vucic said after meeting Lavrov.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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