Peach: Russia wants war in the Western Balkans, we will not allow it
“I vividly remember the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the years of fighting and killing that left scars on generations of people on each side. Worse, much younger than me, the people of the region still live with the terrible legacy of those wars: hatred, a destroyed economy and an uncertain future.
No one wants to relive those black days.
For the sake of these young people, we must do everything in our power to prevent a possible recurrence of armed conflict in the region.
When I say ‘we’, this is primarily a task for local politicians, who must reject destructive nationalism, rise above one-sided interests and direct their policies towards achieving results for the citizens of their countries. This means working towards reconciliation and economic recovery so that people no longer feel the need to leave their countries, which is causing a dangerous brain drain.
Governments must provide their citizens with the education and knowledge to acquire the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
But when I say ‘we’, I also mean the UK and our allies, who share an unwavering commitment to the security and progress of this region.
I have travelled extensively in the region, visiting Kosovo already this year and Croatia and Serbia last week.
My aim is to listen to my interlocutors and encourage them to find constructive solutions, while demonstrating that the UK remains committed to supporting the stability of the region.
We know that Russia is trying to extend its malign influence into the Western Balkans, but the West is united in opposing both Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its attempts to destabilise other regions.
We continue to work to protect the security of the region.
While the risk of armed conflict should not be underestimated, the region and the international community are in a much different, much better position than 30 years ago.
We are much better adapted to the risks and have many more diplomatic and political tools. So, while the recent events you mention are certainly worrying, we need to focus on mobilising the resources we have to keep moving forward,” said in an exclusive interview for one of the leading croatian daily newspapers, Večernji list, Stuart Peach, special envoy of the British government for the Western Balkans.
Peach also referred to Milorad Dodik’s prediction that the time is coming when all Serbs will live in one country and rejected such a possibility.
Asked how much he was counting on Croatia, he said that the country could greatly help the Western Balkan region on its way to the EU and even NATO.
“I have seen that Prime Minister Plenković and Serbian President Vucic have taken important steps these days to improve relations between the two countries. Together with the rest of the international community, I sincerely hope that the leaders of both countries will show that they are true statesmen, building on positive first steps, for peace and stability in the whole region.”
He also assessed that sooner or later Serbia will have to make a decision and impose sanctions on Russia. He also stated that he understood the country’s historical ties with Russia, but also pointed out that the Kremlin is trying to destabilise the Western Balkans.
“As we and many other countries have made clear in our meetings with our Serbian counterparts, this is an issue of right and wrong. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought war and bloodshed back to our continent and it is important that European countries stand united in standing up to Russia’s aggression”, said the British Special Envoy for the Western Balkans.
Peach added that the West “has a long-standing interest in the security of the region and we will continue to work with our allies and partners in the region to protect it.
Politically and diplomatically, the UK remains at the forefront of efforts to counter destabilising activities, including those supported by Russia./AntenaM/