Russia urges OSCE to put pressure on Ukraine
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday urged the OSCE to put pressure on Ukraine to implement a roadmap for de-escalating the violence drawn up by the pan-European security body.
"Ukrainian leaders absolutely refuse to implement the (de-escalation) roadmap and we call all countries members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to put pressure on Ukrainian leaders," Lavrov told reporters in the Serbian capital.
The OSCE drew up the plan to help bring the pro-Western Kiev authorities and pro-Moscow militants in the southeast to the negotiating table, but no progress has been made in several rounds of dialogue that excluded the armed separatists in the east.
According to the Vienna-based OSCE, the roadmap "shows a pragmatic way forward to moving from the logic of escalation to the logic of cooperation and enhancing stability on the ground."
On Tuesday, Lavrov's Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic pledged that his country, which is to take over the OSCE presidency in 2015, would "deploy all efforts to find a solution to the Ukrainian crisis through dialogue."
Since the crisis broke out in November, Serbia, aspiring to join the European Union, has been walking a thin line between respect for its obligations toward Brussels and maintaining good ties with Moscow, its traditional ally.
Belgrade wishes to maintain a "neutral" position regarding the Ukrainian crisis and notably avoid imposing sanctions against Russia as the EU and the United States have done.
"We respect Serbia's negotiations on EU membership," Lavrov said in Belgrade after meeting Dacic.
Commenting on construction of Serbia's stretch of Russia's South Stream gas pipeline, Lavrov said the project was continuing, as Belgrade had announced last week.
"There are no changes in (joint) projects of Russia and Serbia," he said.
The Russian minister labelled Bulgaria's suspension of work on the pipeline, sought by the European Commission, a "temporary problem."
"It is in Serbia's interest to continue construction of the South Stream," said Dacic.
As well as providing political support to Serbia, the two countries have deep economic ties that Belgrade would be loathe to lose.
Russia's oil and gas giant Gazprom holds a majority 51-percent stake in Serbia's oil company NIS.
Last year, the two countries signed an agreement for an $800-million (591-million-euro) loan for reconstruction of the former Yugoslav republic's railways. In April, Russia granted Serbia another $500-million loan to help it deal with its huge budget gap.
Lavrov, who arrived for a two-day visit to Serbia on Monday, was also to meet Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic.
© 2014 AFP