Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Serbia’s drive to join the European Union, but also said that Moscow would remain engaged with the Balkan country no matter what happens and hinted at a move to take over the Serbia-Kosovo negotiations.

“Speaking about the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, we, as I have already mentioned, have expressed confidence in the European Union, including at the UN General Assembly,” Lavrov said, adding that if the Albanian side wanted to increase the number of facilitators of the dialogue, Russia would act upon Serbia’s recommendations.

“If it is decided that Russia might be invited in case the United States is invited in order to ensure a comprehensive approach to mediation, we will not stay away,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov arrived at Belgrade’s airport where he was met by Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, after which the Russian foreign minister held a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vuсiс.

Russian Foreign Minister also said that Serbia’s military neutrality is an important factor of stability in the Balkans and in Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“We, of course, welcome Belgrade’s efforts in developing ties not only with the European Union, but also with the Eurasian Economic Union. In the military and political area, Belgrade cooperates both with NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, remaining committed to the principle of neutrality … We are convinced that this [neutral] status remains one of the most important factors of ensuring stability in the Balkans, we well as the whole European continent,” Lavrov said during his visit to Belgrade.

Lavrov’s visit to Serbia is timed to the 180th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian-Serbian diplomatic relations.

Serbia is seeking to join the EU but at the same time attempting to preserve its traditional strong ties with Russia, which shares its Orthodox Christian heritage and has supported Belgrade in numerous disputes with the West.

Serbia’s Vucic reassured Lavrov that despite its EU ambitions, Serbia would never impose financial sanctions on Moscow, as the United States and EU have done after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“I want to be clear, Serbia will never impose sanctions against the Russian Federation,” Vucic said.

During a trip to Slovenia on Wednesday, Lavrov sharply criticised the West and the EU in particular for failing to maintain good relations with Moscow and for attempting to draw countries in the Balkans away from Russia.