Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov paid his first official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to express the Russian commitment to the Dayton Peace Agreement and BiH’s state territorial integrity and sovereignty.
His visit, which had been initially planned for September 17, was delayed by four days due to “unexpected changes in his ministerial schedule”. The actual planning had been focused on the laying of the foundation stone of the Russian – Serbian church and the Cultural centre about to be built in Banja Luka. Because of the unexpected change, Lavrov did not attend the official ceremony, however, he did visit the place last Friday.
Before arriving in the de facto capital of the Republika Srpska entity, he had held a meeting with the BiH Presidency and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Crnadak. At the press conference in Sarajevo, Lavrov emphasised that Moscow respects the constitutional jurisdiction of the two entities and the three constituent peoples in BiH.
“We want the election (October 7, 2018) results to reflect those principles. We appreciate everything we have heard here and we wish to further strengthen our co-operation. The trade exchange between our two countries is on constant rise with a tendency to expand even further.”
Regarding the potential Russian “favourites” in the upcoming general election in Bosnia, he said that their “favourites” are the country’s citizens.
“We have our favourites, they’re the BiH citizens who will cast their vote at the election. We never tell anyone who they should vote for. We will respect the will of Bosnian voters”, Lavrov concluded.
Minister Crnadak said that meetings like these have a huge significance for the development of the bilateral co-operation.
“The significance of this visit is huge. Our relations with Russia are friendly and we talked about ways to improve them even further in the field of trade. We are grateful to Russia for its principled position concerning the relations within Bosnia”, Crnadak said.
After meeting with BiH Presidency members, there was no presser but, off the record, it seems that every member has asked Lavrov for something. Bosniak member, Bakir Izetbegović, for example, asked Lavrov to talk to the Republika Srpska president, Milorad Dodik, to stop with secessionist ideas and solve the problem with the “bosanski” language. The language issue has been a long lasting problem since Bosniak officials have been demanding that the RS recognises the language of the Bosniak nation as an official Bosnian language.
Lavrov left Sarajevo reaching Banja Luka on Friday afternoon. As mentioned before, he visited the Russian-Serbian church construction site. The church will be dedicated to the Russian Imperial Romanov family (canonized on 1 November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad – ROCA) and Saint Sava.
At the press conference that followed the pre-mentioned visit, Dodik said that Russia is one of the greatest friends of the Serbian people.
“I want to denounce any speculation and claims about the bad influence of Russia. Russia is a friend for ours, and it helps us at all levels. Today, we discussed the achievements (reached so far) as well as plans related to the future of the RS”, Dodik said.
He added that Serbs will never forget that the Russian Ambassador to the UN vetoed resolution on Srebrenica, suggested by UK. Dodik accused the US Ambassador to BiH, Maureen Cormack, for interfering in the political situation in BiH.
“We share a common position: The High Representative must leave BiH as well as foreign judges (now present) in BiH judiciary institutions, elected by Western countries”, said Dodik.
Lavrov agreed with Dodik, saying that Russia is not a state that supports a protectorate in BiH.
The Russian high level diplomat added he would support the co-operation between BiH and the RS in all fields, however he pointed out it could get much better.
“We spoke about conditions for meat and milk exports from RS to Russia. Both sides agreed that they should be realised in the near future”, Lavrov noted.
He recalled that many have been the Russian companies that have invested in RS businesses, most of them belonging to the gas and oil industries.
Russia’s Lavrov also expressed his gratitude to the Banja Luka administration for deciding to build the Russian-Serbian church.
“This will strengthen the friendship between our peoples and bring them closer. It is good to see that Serbs remember the family of the last Russian Emperor”, were Lavrov’s words.
Dodik denied speculations that wanted this visit to have been planned to take place during the election campaign time on purpose. Thus, he clarified that Lavrov’s trip is linked with nothing else than with his actual visit to the Russian-Serbian Church and Cultural centre’s construction site…. / IBNA
Main Photo: Republika Srpska president, Milorad Dodik (R) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov