Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr President, dear colleagues, dear friends!
Allow me to greet you warmly to the Kremlin.
Mr President, it is very pleasant for me to meet with you. As is well-known, Russia and Serbia have special relations that have developed throughout history. Our cooperation has important historical roots, both regarding joint work within Europe and in our bilateral relations.
For unbiased reasons almost 99 percent of trade between Russian and Serbia and Montenegro is done with Serbia. And this year we can reach a trade turnover of two billion USD.
The situation in the region remains difficult. Therefore both my colleagues and myself are very interested in listening to your opinion on what is happening and how you perceive the situation's development.
Boris Tadic (translated from Serbian through Russian): Mr President, I am grateful for your warm reception.
I am really very glad to be in Russia today with the Serbian delegation. And I can confirm that our historical relations are very profound – they go much deeper than those with other peoples and other nations. These relations have cultural and spiritual roots but are also based on economic cooperation between our countries.
And when I attentively studied Russian and Serbian history, I saw that these relations were never interrupted. And today, when Serbia is at a certain crossroads, she certainly counts on Russia's understanding her position.
For me it is especially important to say here today that Russia is one of the pillars of our foreign policy. Even when we want to become members of the European Union, I ask that you never forget that Serbia always perceives Russia as one of the pillars of its foreign policy.
At the same time I would like to say that today our foreign policy is first and foremost determined by the situation in Kosovo. The Kosovo problem is not only Serbia's problem, but that of southern Europe, and indeed of the whole southern part of the continent. Of course for Serbia the question is historical, cultural, religious and one of statehood. But at the same time Serbia is obliged to protect its citizens who are presently being seriously threatened. I have done enough travelling in Kosovo and seen with my own eyes in what conditions Serbs are now living – they are living in ghettos.
Unfortunately the international community has made the decision to begin negotiations on Kosovo's status before the standards regarding people's normal living conditions have been fulfilled. Serbia understands the present international situation and for this reason will participate in these talks with the very best intentions.
Serbia is a fully legitimate democratic state, a member of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, and wishes to be an unconditional and plenipotentiary member of the United Nations. But at the same time Serbia plans to protect its lawful state interests regarding Kosovo during the negotiating process. One of its fundamental elements is preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia regarding Kosovo. Serbia absolutely recognizes the rights of the Albanian population in Kosovo but at the same time Serbia has the full right to protect its legitimate rights. And precisely because of what has just been mentioned, Serbia has an absolutely constructive approach to the talks. Serbia wants the outcome to be absolutely acceptable both for the Serbian and Albanian parties. The decision on the future status of Kosovo should not destabilize the situation within Serbia, nor the situation in the whole region.
The decision should be a legal and political one that will not create a harmful precedent, nor at the same time result in other states of the region being threatened by disintegration.
Let me be more precise. If Kosovar Albanians want to use the right of self-determination and form an independent state in these territories, then automatically other regions, states, or parts of states within that territory should receive such a right. This could lead to the decomposition of certain territories. I am referring to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and even Serbia and Montenegro.
My position is absolutely one of principle – I oppose the disintegration of the Balkan peninsula.
Vladimir Putin: Why only in this territory? In other regions of the world as well. Principles should apply identically to all.
And how many refugees do you now have, people who have left Kosovo and were compelled to leave their homes?
Boris Tadic: About two hundred thousand people. That is two thirds of our population in Kosovo.
Vladimir Putin: Have they not returned?
Boris Tadic: Maybe, a few people have.
Vladimir Putin: I remember that when thirty thousand Kosovar Albanians were forced to abandon their homes, everywhere in the world people talked about a humanitarian catastrophe. Today, as you say, two hundred thousand Serbs are forced to leave their homes. And everyone remains silent.
Boris Tadic: The humanitarian catastrophe is continuing. And I absolutely agree with you, the principle which should be applied in the Balkans should also be applied everywhere in the world. If we allow one such legal and political precedent, we shall create a certain kind of virus.