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Ladies and Gentlemen,
We met today with President of Slovenia Borut Pahor. The meeting and two rounds of talks yesterday and today with Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia Miro Cerar were held in a trust-based and friendly atmosphere. We thank our hosts for the arrangements and for the traditional Slovenian hospitality.
We discussed a wide range of bilateral, international and regional problems, and proceed from the premise that our contacts are consistently developing at all levels. There is onward momentum in the political dialogue at the top and high levels, as well as at the foreign ministry level. There are regular contacts between economic agencies, judicial authorities, offices of the Prosecutors General and between regions, covering economic and humanitarian matters, research, education and sports.
We attach great importance to the Russian-Slovenian Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, co-chaired by Miro Cerar and Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation Konstantin Noskov. We agreed that more initiatives will be prepared for the next regular meeting that is scheduled for mid-June in Ljubljana with a view to further expanding our economic and investment cooperation. There are promising projects in the energy sector, transport infrastructure, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and other areas.
We agreed to encourage direct business-to-business contacts, and facilitate interaction between our chambers of commerce and business councils. We are looking forward to seeing a strong Slovenian delegation at the next St Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June headed by Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek.
We intend to continue our joint efforts to improve the contractual legal framework, and a number of agreements are currently being drafted. Today, we agreed on accelerating efforts to approve these instruments.
People-to-people contacts are quite extensive. Last autumn, we completed the cross seasons of culture which were a great success. The experience gained through these events will, of course, come in handy as we celebrate, in mid-June, the 15th anniversary of the Forum of Slavic Cultures headquartered in Ljubljana. This one-of-a-kind non-governmental organisation, established in 2004 on the initiative of the presidents of Russia and Slovenia, is carrying out a series of critically important projects aimed at preserving the common cultural and historical heritage of Slavic peoples and popularising fine art, literature, theatre and cinema.
We are thankful to the Slovenian authorities for their support of the initiative to create the Gagarin High-Tech Centre at the Cultural Centre for European Space Technologies in Vitanje. We believe this can become an important dialogue format designed to help advance and deepen our ties in space exploration and innovative research, as well as be part of awareness programmes.
My colleague has already mentioned that we focus particularly on the topic of memorials. Today, in the town of Šmartno-pri-Litiji, we will unveil a monument to a prominent philologist, the man who instituted Russian language studies in Slovenia, Davorin Hostnik. We are convinced that this move will be another testament to our deep respect for the chapters of history that unite the peoples of Russia and Slovenia.
We are grateful to our Slovenian friends for supporting the events at the Russian chapel under the Vršič Pass and erecting in Ljubljana in 2016 a monument to the Russian and Soviet soldiers who died on Slovenian soil during World War I and World War II. We are grateful to the Slovenes for taking care of all the memorials that are dedicated to the events of those years which are connected with our compatriots. We see this as a commitment, which we fully share, to show sacred respect for our common roots and spiritual traditions.
We also agreed to speed up work to create in Moscow a monument to the Slovenes who fell in action on our land during World War I and World War II.
We will cooperate to promote the activities of the World War II International Research Centre in Maribor. I had the honour to join President of Slovenia Borut Pahor in the opening ceremony for the museum there. Later, the World War II Research Centre, which I mentioned, was created on the basis of this museum with a goal to spread objective information about the outcome and lessons of the events which unfolded in 1939-1945. The centre is located in a building of a former Nazi concentration camp for Soviet prisoners of war, and its exhibits represent a strict admonition regarding the unacceptability of falsifying history and turning a blind eye to the glorification of Nazism. Unfortunately, we can see attempts to do so.
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.
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.
Overall, we are satisfied with the outcome of the talks. We will continue to discuss important issues of the bilateral agenda and regional affairs at a meeting with Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Marjan Sarec which we will have right after this news conference.
Question: Last time you said that Slovenia’s policy is becoming increasingly pro-American, at least, at the level of statements the country makes.
Sergey Lavrov: I am not sure your question was interpreted correctly. However, if it was, my answer is that I never said that Slovenia’s policy was becoming increasingly pro-American. That is why I find it hard to answer this question, if it is exactly what you asked me.
Question: What do you think of numerous cultural and people-to-people events jointly held by Russia and Slovenia, including the unveiling of the monument to Slovenian philologist Davorin Hostnik?
Sergey Lavrov: I have already said what I think about our joint events dedicated to history, the lessons of the world wars and our cooperation in general over the last centuries. We appreciate efforts like these and see that Slovenia cares about our common history. If this is what you asked me about, because the interpretation was not entirely correct.
Question: How would you comment on the changes in Slovenia’s foreign policy which have occurred since last year?
Sergey Lavrov: No comment – I do not see any difference. If you want me to comment on Slovenia’s domestic affairs, it is not our method. There are other countries which try to interfere in the domestic affairs and foreign policy of their counterparts but Russia certainly does not.
Question: Special forces entered Serbian enclaves earlier in Kosovo. Some people were detained. A Russian citizen was detained but then released. The Serbian Army was brought to full combat readiness. Are there grounds to expect further escalation? Who stands to gain from playing the “Kosovo card” again?
Sergey Lavrov: Provocations like the one in Kosovska Mitrovica benefit those who want to turn the Balkans into a “sanitary cordon” with respect to the Russian Federation. All states must be drawn into NATO for this purpose. You saw how everything was subordinated to this goal when the issue of the official name for Macedonia was decided. Now we are seeing how they are trying to make Serbia accept that the decision on Kosovo’s independence should be made official, which will open the doors to NATO for new territories in the West Balkans as well. It is all most unfortunate.
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 piding 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.
More concretely, this is the result of the tacit support of the EU and NATO – which have sway in the region, on the territory of Kosovo – for Pristina’s categorical refusal to abide by UN Security Council Resolution and the commitments that were negotiated by Belgrade and Pristina with EU mediation, such as the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. The relevant agreement was reached several years ago. The lack of any progress on this issue shows that the Pristina authorities are prone to confrontation and, sorry to say, that the EU is helpless.
Question: The Austrian Government resigned after the publication of a scandalous video in which Vice Chancellor Hanz-Christian Strache is allegedly speaking with a niece of a Russian oligarch. Yesterday it transpired that the role of “the niece” was played by a Bosnian student. Yet, the government had to resign because of this fake video. Why are Russians again being used to scare Europe and why is the government resigning after the publication of such information?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the Russian-speaking Bosnian student, everything is clear. Russophobia is now in fashion. It is possible to reap good pidends from their “big brothers” for it. It is very popular to blame Russians for everything according to the “highly likely” principle that was voiced by Prime Minister Theresa May at one time.
It is telling that the free media in the West, which eagerly reported the version about the Russian origin of that girl (true, later on they started calling her “Russian speaking”) and regularly repeated it, are writing very little about this, if at all, now that her Bosnian origin has been confirmed.
I urge everyone, including the journalists present here, to always be objective and write about what is actually happening.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston