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Lavrov visits Belgrade ahead of elections, US-led Kosovo talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Belgrade on Thursday in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic ahead of parliamentary elections and talks on Kosovo surprisingly initiated by the United States.

Belgrade, 18 June 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Belgrade on Thursday in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic ahead of parliamentary elections and talks on Kosovo surprisingly initiated by the United States.

Vucic said he received information from Lavrov about the upcoming talks causing “additional worries.”

“We are facing a period of great pressure within some plans of which we were officially and unofficially informed,” Vucic said after meeting Lavrov.

“Based on what our Russian friends estimate, we will have to be exceptionally careful with any idea presented to us,” he added and again thanked Moscow for “protecting international institutions from those who illegally recognized Kosovo.”

He also stressed that Serbia wants Russia to be involved in any agreement regarding the Kosovo issue.

Since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Serbia has actively campaigned among countries that recognized Kosovo – around 100 currently – to reverse the move.

In Belgrade, Lavrov scolded the EU for “isolating itself” from the Serbia-Kosovo process and failing to enforce the implementation of agreements it brokered.

The US became rapidly involved in the Serbia-Kosovo normalization process late last year, with the nearly decade-long EU-brokered talks stalled.

President Donald Trump’s envoy for the talks, Richard Grenell, last week surprisingly announced that the two sides committed to a meeting in Washington, as well as to suspending diplomatic activities against each other.

It is unclear what the US will propose after Belgrade and Pristina had been unable to move toward resolving their relations for years. Both Serbia and Kosovo, its breakaway province, see the US as Pristina’s most important ally.

According to Grenell, Serbia agreed to provisionally stop the so-called de-recognition campaign, within which it managed to persuade several countries to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo.

Serbia’s most important supporter in the campaign against Kosovo is its fellow Orthodox superpower Russia, which can continue blocking the former province from UN membership.

The EU has attempted to revive the process as it seems to be drifting into US hands, and Brussels’ new envoy for the talks, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, visited Pristina this week but was coolly greeted.

Kosovo Albanian leaders not only eye the EU with suspicion and see it as impotent to force Serbia into accepting the loss of its territory, but also criticized the appointment of an envoy from Slovakia, one of five EU countries that have not recognized Kosovo.

Additionally, the daily Koha on Thursday reported that French President Emmanuel Macron plans to organize a Serbia-Kosovo meeting in Paris on July 17. An attempt to hold a summit on an initiative by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel a year ago had failed.

In Serbian parliamentary elections on Sunday, Vucic’s Progressive Party is expected to win with a massive margin, while their coalition partners, Dacic’s Socialists, were tipped to come in second, leaving just a handful of seats to the fragmented opposition, which is partially boycotting the vote.

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