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Dacic speaks for Telegraf.rs: Conflict in Kosovo and Metohija can escalate, it's clear who can provoke it

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* If we were to impose sanctions against Russia, the obvious consequence would be the loss of Russia's support when it comes to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. * Kosovo cannot count on more than 83 votes out of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly * Kurti wants to extend state sovereignty to the north of Kosovo * He has no intention of respecting the Brussels Agreement * If Kosovo joins the Council of Europe, that will not mean verification of their statehood at the international level

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It was rumored that he would be either the interior minister or the minister of foreign affairs. In either case, he would sit in the same cabinet chair for a second time. That is what happened, when Ivica Dacic was elected as the first deputy prime minister of the new Government and once again and the minister of foreign affairs of Serbia. He has a goal, and that, as he has told Telegraf.rs in an interview, is to achieve the best possible international position for Serbia in the coming period. And to be the best minister. He remarks that we must not allow the Brussels Agreement to be derogated from, that is, for someone to say that the agreement is no longer valid, when it has not even begun to be implemented, and that Albin Kurti, who says that the agreement does not exist, is obviously the main factor of destabilization and the main factor of any possible endangering of peace and stability in the region.

In this regard, he is skeptical that the European Union will force Kurti to implement the Brussels Agreement. Dacic says the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is increasingly more distant because the search for a political solution is not being pursued.

An escalation of the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija can certainly happen, and it is known exactly which "EU's baby" can cause it, and Dacic stresses that the most important thing is that the Serbs are not the ones who cause incidents.

In an interview with our portal, Minister Dacic also spoke about what would happen if we imposed sanctions against Russia, how officials of the so-called state of Kosovo are using the war in Ukraine for a showdown with Serbia, which countries besides Russia and China are ready at any moment to lend us a hand, but also what it will mean for us if Kosovo becomes a member of the Council of Europe (CoE).

  • Would I be mistaken to say that you took over as our country's foreign minister during a crisis time?

You would certainly not be mistaken. On the other hand, I don't remember when we had really good moments in the past 20, 30 years, so if we are waiting for some better moments to come, I think it would be like 'waiting for Godot'. In any case, I cannot say that the problems are new. These are the problems with which the entire region has been burdened for the last few decades, and those who deal with that region in more detail would say, even in the last centuries. And, it would be very frivolous for someone to think that these problems depend exclusively on some personal or personnel solutions in the Government, instead they also depend on geostrategic circumstances, on how much understanding we have from great powers, because it has never happened that this region makes all its decisions in an exactly independent manner.

So, you're right. There are many problems. They especially escalated, when it comes to the geostrategic level, with the war in Ukraine, where our position multiplied in terms of reflections of what is happening from different international centers. Everyone expects us to align ourselves somewhere, and what we would like the most, and what we are doing is to, above all, take care of Serbian national and state interests. Meaning, the interests of the state of Serbia and its citizens.

  • For how long will we be able to and will we succeed completely in resisting pressure to align ourselves with someone? They pressure us to impose sanctions against Russian, we are neither doing that, nor do we want to do it.

I think that in order to understand that position, it would be necessary to understand that in addition to these international issues, we also have our own internal problems, that is, the issue of preserving our territorial integrity and sovereignty. In this sense, every move we make at the foreign policy level reflect at that level as well, at the level of the status of Kosovo and Metohija. That is why it is very important to be balanced, which means not creating new enemies where we have no need for that, and on the other hand, not to lose friends whose support we need when it comes to our issue of Kosovo and Metohija.

Not to mention economic issues that are related, first of all, to the issue of energy sources, because we are not in a position to have alternative sources of gas. We have to take care of our bilateral relations with Russia as well as with other friendly relations. For example, with Hungary, which helps us a lot in these moments. And, the third thing is that for moral reasons we cannot support sanctions, as a principle of problem solving, because these sanctions are mostly directed against the common people and not against any individual.

  • You just answered the part of my question about what could happen if we did, and if we didn't impose sanctions against Russia...

I would really like it if someone would seriously analyze it, and take into account the Western countries that say we should impose sanctions agaisnt Russia. What do I mean? In the sense that they should put on paper what the consequences would be. Evidently the consequences of this would be the loss of Russia's support, when it comes to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. That consequence does not exist for the West, that's what they want. So it's not as simple as some people think, that we belong to the Western world and should impose sanctions against Russia.

We condemn the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, that is not in dispute. But we are not the only country in the world (that has not imposed sanctions). In Europe we are, but there are also many countries to whom that is allowed. It is allowed to have exceptions to sanctions against Russia. It is allowed to them, and we are being criticized. After all, we are not the exponents of Moscow, Washington, or Brussels. We have to take care of our national and state interests. Why am I saying that? Now in the Council of Europe, Kosovo's membership in that organization will be on the agenda. Let's just see how those countries forcing us to impose sanctions will behave. They will vote in favor of Kosovo. So what is the offer to Belgrade?

  • What will it mean in concrete terms for us if they (Pristina) join the CoE?

In some essential sense, this will not mean verification of their statehood at the international level. Because the Council of Europe is a regional organization. For that, the question of membership in the United Nations is key, and in the UN they have no chance of becoming a member. First of all, we had an extremely successful action of derecognitions, we worked to make many countries change their decision to recognize Kosovo, and at the same time, that many countries that do not recognize Kosovo continue with that stance. So, today they cannot count on more than 83 votes out of 193 members in the UN General Assembly.

That being said, we are relatively safe there. Of course, they can become members of the Council of Europe because they have a sufficient number of countries in Europe that recognize them, since there decisions are not made by consensus. But in the EU, the OSCE and other international organizations, where consensus is needed, it certainly won't happen.

Kurti has no intention of respecting the Brussels Agreement

  • To what degree do officials of so-called Kosovo use the situation in Ukraine for a showdown with Serbia?

They do. You know how they do it - they present Serbia as a zone of Russian influence and in the West they say that they are Westerners and that we are pro-Russian. And that we represent Russian interests, which is completely insane. Because, the Russians have nothing to do with the Brussels Agreement. The essential question here is whether they (Pristina) will respect the Brussels Agreement or not. We must not allow the Brussels Agreement to be derogated from, that is, for someone to say that the agreement is no longer valid. Well, it has not even started to be implemented.

  • Albin Kurti, for example, has said that it does not exist. The Serbian prime minister says these are bad signals, how do you see it?

Of course they are bad signals. This indicates that he has no intention of respecting the agreement signed by the European Union. Both Hashim Thaci and I signed that agreement, of course, but the European Union is the guarantor of it. And how can you have a serious conversation with such a politician, who is obviously the main factor in destabilization and the main factor in possibly endangering peace and stability in the region. That is why the European Union should show by what means they intend to convince and force Kurti to implement the Brussels Agreement.

  • Well, will they?

I don't believe they will. This is where we arrive at some hypocrisy. Why don't they apply all their capabilities. I can't believe that they can't, that they have no influence.

  • But they have no desire?

It is obvious that they have no desire. That is, it is obvious that, still, there is a certain understanding that this is their baby, that they created it. The problem is that their baby, especially Kurti, is a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.

  • In relation to that, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue seems more distant than ever, and it looks like it will get even more distant.

Because, I say it once again, the story is not focused on the search for a political solution. Rather, the story is artificially directed by Kurti to mean that everything has already been resolved and that now Serbia just needs to accept Kosovo's independence. And that they want to extend that state sovereignty to the north of Kosovo. That will never happen, and they know it, so they are trying to do it through various tricks, such as preparations around license plates, wanting the Serbs to pay all those fines. And, of course, to after that also intervene by force and integrate the north of Kosovo into that independent state of Kosovo. This is absolutely unacceptable to Serbia and, of course, if it goes down that path, it can dangerously threaten peace in the entire region. This is where we come to the point where the EU must then declare whether it wants to react or not.

  • Does that mean that the situation in Kosovo and Metohija could escalate?

It certainly can, but you know exactly who can cause it, so rap the one who can cause it on the knuckles. I don't know why anyone is addressing Serbia around this, given that Serbia has fulfilled everything. Why don't you address Russia and Ukraine with the theory that both sides are responsible? How is Serbia responsible for not applying the Brussels Agreement? There is an obvious arrogance and hypocrisy coming in, but that is the reality. We cannot escape from it. We will be active. As you can see, President Vucic is one of the key factors of stability in the region.

  • Will us Serbs once again be to blame if there is an escalation even though we know who, as you put it, needs to have their knuckles rapped? Just as they condemned us when the Serbs left Pristina's institutions.

Nobody condemned the Albanians when they left the Serbian institutions 20, 30 years ago. What do we care who condemns us. We need to know what we want. The Serbs have their own goals, and our goal is to achieve all of them peacefully. One thing we must not allow us for the Serbs to be blamed for some incidents. If someone attacks the Serbs, the Serbs will defend themselves. But everything else that the Serbs can control will be taking place in a peaceful manner according to President Vucic's instructions.

  • When were you in Kosovo last and do you plan on going there?

I have a problem in that they don't allow me to go to Kosovo. They don't want to issue the permit. And I can't go just like an ordinary citizen. I could, but they wouldn't let me. So, here we are experiencing such situations as well, which is completely contrary to the agreements we reached with them to have these visits announced and then approved.

  • And then they don't get approved?

Then they don't get approved. It's completely unnecessary. I did not intend to go to Pristina, each of us intends to go to Serb areas. And each of us speaks for the purpose of implementing the Brussels Agreement, isn't saying anything that would be counterproductive.

  • How many countries have revoked their recognition of Kosovo so far, and are there indications that more will follow soon?

It's not advisable to talk about that now. We are still at that stage where the Washington Agreement is hovering over us, even though Pristina does not even respect the Brussels Agreement, let alone the Washington Agreement. We are of the opinion that we should not yet announce which countries those are, until we see whether the application for Kosovo's membership in the Council of Europe is accepted. But what I can say with certainty is to look at the number of UN member countries, which is 193. When all this started, more than 110 countries were recognizing Kosovo.

We agreed, I proposed it to the president and he accepted, to have a state campaign that is still current, that we work with the countries to review those decisions. So today there are countries that recognize Kosovo but do not vote for Kosovo, like Egypt, Peru, like Hungary after all. It recognized Kosovo but no longer votes for Kosovo. This means that they cannot count on more than 83 votes out of the 193 in the UN. That is capital value for us. Otherwise, we would have to rely only on Russia and China as permanent members of the Security Council, who can prevent the issue (of Kosovo's membership) by vetoing it.

Because it is realistic to expect that the issue can also pass the Security Council unless someone vetoes it. If we consider the worst case scenario for us, even if it passes the Security Council, it cannot pass the UN General Assembly. Therefore, in order not to depend on anyone else, we will continue this campaign.

  • Beside Russia and China, which other countries are always ready to lend us a helping hand?

A large number of countries. I have to say yes, when it comes to countries that are members of the EU - Spain, Cyprus, Romania, even Slovakia and Greece. You have Hungary which recognized Kosovo but which will not vote for Kosovo in the Council of Europe, which did not vote for Kosovo to join Intepol either, which will not vote for Kosovo in the EU if they submit a (membership) application. Not to mention other countries like India, Indonesia, South Africa. We have countries that are in Latin America, that are on our side, such as Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, but at the same time I must say that there are also some countries that are Muslim and do not recognize Kosovo. Palestine is not a member of the UN, but it is very important that Palestine is against Kosovo, primarily because of the Muslim world and the Arab world. Then Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya... These are all big countries that did not recognize Kosovo. Iran, Iraq.. Very important.

  • Last weekend you attended the Conference of the International Organization of Francophonie. There were many topics, many members, what troubles them?

France is a country that is a colonial power and that has well thought out that organization, which aims to promote the French language, culture... and which has more than 80 members. Through this, they achieve their political influence. Other countries are not so well organized in this field, although English is spoken in many countries in the world. They only have the Commonwealth, but no one outside the Commonwealth can be a member. Here, they also welcome those who, basically, have no connection with the French language and who are not first and foremost francophone countries.

In this regard, Serbia has found its place as an associate member, we want to be a permanent member. Since I became a minister, which is 8 years ago, we have been to every gathering and we want to derive political benefit from all of that, because you are there in one place with 80 countries. Secondly, to obtain for the country and for the citizens as many of these various programs related to Francophonie as possible - the French language, culture, art, scholarships... To teach the French language as much as possible in schools, to thereby open up more chances for our people to study in French. All of that has its advantages, especially when those programs are funded by that organization. But our primary interest is political, that means being present there.

The topic at this conference was digitization in that sphere. But I was one of the few who talked about digitization because we have achieved a lot in that regard. Nobody even mentioned it. It's important that they are there, that they are present, that they meet with the French president, with the Canadian prime minister, and that is all of great importance to them. Despite the fact that France was a colonial power, they still maintain some special and specific relations with it. So it's a very useful meeting. You know, Africa is the friendliest continent to us. I am absolutely against anyone who underestimates the influence of Africa. (Josip Broz) Tito was no fool when he had Africa behind him, he had a quarter of humanity. Africa has 54 countries, 54 members of the UN. Out of 193. Honestly, I look forward to visiting those countries more than some who look down on us.

  • For example?

Whether it's in the West or the East. Everyone thinks that when I talk about it, I always mean the West. It's not just the West. Also in the East, big powers don't really see you as an equal. Asia must be worked with. You know how big the Pacific area is. I was now interested in and very happy about the results of elections in Vanuatu. And I don't think anyone followed it, but I did, because a friend of mine has become the foreign minister there. So yes, you must follow things. And every vote is important out of the 193, we need to have a majority and we have already achieved that goal.

Why minister of foreign affairs again, instead of the interior

  • How much harder is it to be the foreign minister now, compared to when you did this job previously?

Basically, it's the same job, only the problems are a little bigger because Ukraine is now an additional factor, that is, the war in Ukraine. There will be an OSCE ministerial meeting soon. I (Serbia) was the chairman in 2015 and now Poland is the chairman. There is a meeting in Lodz next week, and they will not invite (Russian FM) Lavrov now. You have a meeting of 57 OSCE countries to which you will not invite one or the other... The question then arises as to whether there is any point in the existence of that organization. What are we doing here? How can we decide, when every day there are resolutions against Russia, China, Iraq, Venezuela, or Ethiopia, Zimbabwe or some other countries that are our great friends. Zimbabwe is the only country that voted against the bombing when the Security Council was decising on it in 1999. And you're now supposed to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.

  • What kind of experience have you gained as the president of the National Assembly of Serbia?

I didn't gain any experience that I didn't have. I have served as a deputy since 1992.

  • Still, it's a little different on the other side.

Yes, but I was elected in all mandates from 1992 until today. I even received a jubilee award for 30 years of work. It's true that it's different being the chairman and being a deputy. I kept telling that to President Vucic, and he kept saying what the difference between me and him is. There were some protests in Novi Sad, at that time we were not in power in Vojvodina, (Bojan) Pajtic was still in power. I was the interior minister at the time. He says, 'This rally is going well'. I say, 'You see what the difference is, I'm looking to see when it's going to end'. When I was the interior minister, I never looked at the result of a game, but when it was about to end and that there were no incidents.

It's the same in the position of the president of the Assembly. Here you look to make sure that everything ends peacefully, and a deputy has an interest in discussing more, in making some move that the citizens who watch it live will characterize as positive. So there is some difference between being the Assembly president and a deputy.

  • Why be the minister of foreign affairs again, instead of the interior?

There were talks about whether it would be one or the other. I told President Vucic that it is up to him to assess where I can help him the most and the best.

  • So, the president decided.

He also suggested me as the foreign minister in 2014. It was his idea. It didn't even occur to me. To be honest, it never occurred to me to be the minister of the interior either. I am a politician, first of all, and I think that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives more space for politics. In internal affairs, you have to deal with issues that have nothing to do with politics every day.

  • Would it be important and in what way for our country if peace talks between Zelensky and Putin really took place in Belgrade?

Of course, we wouldn't reject something like that, but on the other hand, we don't need to get ahead of ourselves a lot there and be solving some world problems when we have our own that we haven't solved. In this regard, regardless of the fact that these stories appear, I think that they, nevertheless, found some other destinations. The negotiations will hardly be conducted here, because everyone determines a country that could be it. In the beginning, Belarus was the place where Russians and Ukrainians would meet, but now it is no longer Belarus, so now they are meeting more in Turkey. Turkey somehow got that 'privilege', and I mean also the economic privileges that it achieves, and to be a contact country for Russia. I don't think we should force our way in and meddle in world topics and problems. If someone wants us to help, we are here.

  • What will be your greatest goal and challenge as the foreign minister?

I said that I want to be the best minister in the government. That's what I told my colleagues.

  • What does that mean for them?

That they also have to be the best.

  • To compete?

That's right. Whoever wants to participate, let them participate. If the don't want to, let them give way to someone else. I'm not talking about political qualifications at all. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a little different. I never brought people from the party there. We have no political aspirations, but there should be people who will be dedicated to that work in the best possible way, and that is my goal. The goal is to achieve the best possible international position in the coming period.

  • 2023 is approaching, what would be your wishes for Serbia, and what for yourself?

As you know, January 1 is a specific date for me because that is my birthday. And, then, I can never compartmentalize all that, especially since I've had many political commitments on that day also at the international level. For example, the inauguration of the president of Brazil, according to the Constitution, takes place on January 1. The (Serbian) president sent me twice there as his envoy, to be at that event which is on the same day as my birthday.

Personally, I would like it if politics were less and less a part of people's lives, that is, if that issue became unimportant and the issue of everyday life and a better life became important. I can wish for it, but it certainly won't happen, that all our problems are solved, but at least let's create good conditions for our children to live better.

(Telegraf.rs)

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