U.S. ambassador: Russia made big mistake

KOPAONIK -- U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby said on Tuesday that "the whole world needed the United States and Russia to have a good relationship."

(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)

At the same time, the EU needed to have a relationship with Russia as well, he said.

"Some have said that Europe is paying all the economic consequences of it not being so," Kirby said while speaking on a panel discussing geopolitical events spilling over into economy, which took place at the 2015 Kopaonik Business Forum in southern Serbia.

Kirby said that Russia had made a big mistake by "annexing a trunk of its neighbour and precipitating a civil war in eastern Ukraine."

“I was quite perturbed to see the assassination of (opposition politician) Boris Nemtsov. The first response out of Moscow was it must have been a provocation by somebody from Ukraine to do this. I find that extraordinarily difficult to believe,” the American ambassador said.

Kirby believes that part of the problem in Ukraine is in the fact that economic reforms there have not been implemented in an efficient way and that no solution for energy dependence has been found.

He said a reason for electricity spending being on decline in the United States was because the citizens realized that they needed to reduce the use of the means of transport that used up a lot of fuel.

Serbia has potential in the field of energy, said Kirby, adding that it was not good to have all energy supplies coming from just one place (Russia).

Speaking about the prospects for resolving the crisis in Ukraine, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport stressed the need to insist on signing another ceasefire agreement in Minsk, but also sending more observers to Ukraine within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to the country.

A new ceasefire agreement would give us a little room to breathe, Davenport said.

Davenport said that the OSCE activities were very important and that sending more observers of the organization to Ukraine would help build trust, stressing that the role of Serbia as OSCE chair was very important there.

Serbia, of course, as chair of the OSCE in 2015 does have a very important role to play and I think it is very encouraging that so far, we have had a very good working relationship between the EU member states and the OSCE chairmanship-in-office and indeed, between the EU high representative and the OSCE chairman, he said.

Davenport pointed to some other issues, in particular the threat from IS, Islamic State, in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. He called the situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya very difficult and dangerous, adding that it posed a serious threat to all of us.

There has been a growing recognition, including in Serbia, of the implications for us and for our security and for our societies of growing radicalization and the fact that there are those in our societies who are prepared to subscribe to the goals of the radicals, Davenport said.

"This is a threat to all of us, and I think it is very good that Serbia is taking that as seriously as is the case," he added.

German Ambassador to Serbia Heinz Wilhelm stressed that relations between the EU and Russia were of central importance as they affected everyone.

He said that the relationship between the EU and Russia had been deteriorating since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. This crisis is very bad for us, said Wilhelm, adding that the EU, France and Germany in particular, were doing their best to help improve the situation in Ukraine.

The German ambassador said that the dialogue between the conflicting sides had to continue as it was the only way out of the crisis.

"We are ready to handle even the economic impact of the sanctions (imposed on Russia), but this is a political issue," Wilhelm said.