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News 07 Nov 17

Serbia to Host Another US-Russia Meeting on Ukraine

After reports that a new meeting within the framework of the Moscow-Washington dialogue on Ukraine will be held in Belgrade, experts say the choice of location suggests that Serbia's policy of neutrality between East and West is bearing fruit.

Maja Zivanovic

Kurt Volker, the US representative at the Ukraine negotiations. Photo: US Embassy Kyiv Ukraine/Flickr

The US representative on Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy, Vladislav Surkov, are to meet in Belgrade again, the Serbian media have reported.

Experts see the meetings as diplomatic fruit for the country's “two chairs” policy of balancing between West and East.

“Serbia has a neutral position in that conflict,” foreign policy analyst and journalist for Politika newspaper Bosko Jaksic told BIRN, of the conflict in Ukraine.

He added that while it is known that Serbia is close to Moscow, it also respects Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and integrity.

Jaksic is known to the public for having raised the issue of growing Russian influence in Serbia, and warned recently that Russia had become increasingly “nervous” since suffering two major foreign policy setbacks in the Balkan region, in Montenegro and Macedonia.

Another political analyst, Dragomir Andjelkovic, known for taking a pro-Russian stance, told BIRN that Serbia was chosen as a destination because it was acceptable for both sides.

“When it comes to the Russians, Serbia is a place where the representatives of the Russian elite who are often on the lists of sanctions in many other places, can come without restriction,” he said, adding that the US sees Serbia as “a country that can play the role of meeting place”.

According to Andjelkovic, while Serbia does not have any specific role as a mediator on Ukraine, it is an acceptable location for both Russia and the US.

The Russian media outlet Sputnik reported on November 3 that US envoy Volker and Russia's Surkov would meet in Belgrade to discuss the possible deployment of the UN peacekeeping force in eastern Ukraine, and so relaunch the stalled peace process agreed earlier in Minsk.

The two representatives met first in Belgrade on October 9, and, said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, “the choice of Belgrade was “an indication of the changed and improved foreign policy position of Serbia”.

Jaksic said Serbia would surely use the event to brag about “the high level of trust it enjoys both East and West”, adding: “It is marketing move, but every country would use it.”

He warned, however, that the choice of Belgrade as the meeting point could mean also that both sides are “looking through their fingers at Serbia, in the sense that the West says they know we are too close to Moscow, while the Russians have objections that we are too close to the EU”.

For Andjelkovic, the meetings of US and Russian representatives in Belgrade could pave the way to even bigger meetings.

Asked about a possible Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin meeting in Serbia, he said that if more progress was made in US-Russia relations “surely a suitable location will be required.

“If we continue with the policy of balance and neutrality, there is a chance that we will be a place for this kind of meeting, but it is too early to talk about it,” he added.

The first Belgrade meeting came after Volker and Surkov met for the first time in Minsk, Belarus, in August.

BIRN could not independently verify the info on the meeting.

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