The relations between Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are friendly and are set to improve in the future, both Russian and Bosnian Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Bisera Turkovic agrees Tuesday in Sochi, with the Russian side stressing that they do not recognize the newly elected High Representative to BiH Christian Schmidt because not all ethnic groups recognize him, either.
“Today’s talks were frank and constructive. Turkovic’s visit coincides with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries. We welcome the consistent development of relations and are especially focused on ties between universities from our two countries. Turkovic informed us about Bosnia’s decision to open the Embassy’s Office in Banja Luka and we agreed to step up work on 12 projects between the states,” Lavrov said during the press conference.
He noted that trade and economic ties are important and that Russia is one of Bosnia’s leading partners in this field. Next year, he added, Russia will increase the number of scholarships for BiH students by 50% as the number of students interested in learning the Russian language and studying in Russian universities.
Lavrov recalled that Sarajevo hosted the event called the Days of Russian culture November this year, stressing the ties between the 2 countries as well as the very good cooperation within the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Speakinga about the situation in the Balkans, Lavrov emphasized Russia’s support for the Dayton Peace Agreement, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as equal rights of three peoples, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, and two entities – the Federation and Republika Srpska.
“BiH is an established state and the Dayton foundations must be respected. All attempts from the outside to guide the country is something that should not be tolerated. When it comes to the general situation in Balkans, Russia will help resolve any issue based on dialogue and respect,” Lavrov concluded, adding that they agreed to continue close contacts between the ministries.
Bosnia’s Bisera Turkovic thanked Lavrov and Congratulated him on the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two states. Today's visit, she said, was an opportunity to discuss everything that was done over the past year but to set new goals for the future.
The Bosnian Foreign Minister stressed that the two friendly countries are marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, pointing out that the Russian Federation was among the first to recognize Bosnia’s independence.
She also mentioned the recently opened Office of the Russian Federation in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity, adding that she soon expects the opening of the Russian Cultural as well as Humanitarian Centre in the country.
“We stressed the need to improve trade as Russia is among biggest investors in BiH and it is an important energy supplier. We hope to increase exports from BiH to Russia,” Turkovic said.
Turkovic stressed that BiH is counting on the good will of Russia to hold an exhibition of the Kulin Ban Charter, a trade agreement between the Banate of Bosnia and the Republic of Ragusa that effectively regulated Ragusan trade rights in Bosnia, written on 29 August 1189. It is one of the oldest written state documents in the region.
The first to bring the charter to the public eye was Serbian émigrée Jeremija Gagic, the former Russian consul in Dubrovnik, who claimed to have saved the document in 1817. It was later known that the document was held in the Dubrovnik Archive until at least 1832 when it was copied by Djordje Nikolajevic and published in Monumenta Serbica. Jeremija Gagic obtained the charter that Nikolajevic stole, and sold or donated it to the Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, where it is held today. Dubrovnik Archive preserves another two copies of the charter.
“Today's meeting comes at a very important moment for BiH and the Balkans. I familiarized Lavrov with my view of the situation and stressed that Bosnian citizens are concerned and fear the potential of a new war, especially after the Republika Srpska National Assembly conclusions. Implementing the conclusions could demolish the progress the country had made over the past 26 years. My position is that any issue needs to be addressed in BiH institutions, not through unilateral moves. We discussed the position of the OHR operating in accordance with the Dayton Agreement. Russia believes the OHR needs to be closed so that all the powers are given to BiH institutions. On the other hand, we believe the OHR needs to continue existing to ensure Bosnia’s functionality. It is important that Russia noted it supports the Dayton Agreement and sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH. Only on truth and justice can we build a better future. I'm convinced Russia will respect the will of ppl, democratic institutions and the future we choose through those institutions,” Turkovic said
she added that the talks were a big contribution to the improvement of relations and support for the stabilization of the region and BiH.
“We are grateful to Lavrov for his visionary approach, understanding of the situation, vast knowledge and I must say you are lucky to have such a Foreign Minister,” Turkovic concluded.
After the statements, questions from the press followed when TAS news agency asked about Russia’s role in reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina to which Turkovic said Russia was constructive and always had a calming role in BiH. With a great understanding of people and diversity and inclusion in Russia, Turkovic noted it can serve as an example to BiH on how to work on the inclusion of various ethnic groups.
Lavrov pointed out that 20 yrs after the war, Russia still sees BiH as an outside protectorate by the “so-called OHR”. He recalled that the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) with Russia decided to drive towards the closing of the OHR in early 2000 so that all ethnic groups can decide on their future by themselves. Addressing the conditions for the closure of the OHR is something Bosnians should do themselves he added, noting that the current High Representative, Christian Schmidt is not recognized by Russia as he is not recognized by all 3 peoples in BiH or the UN Security Council.