Cerar Visits Pompeo and Bolton in Washington, Discusses Western Balkans and Borders

By , 15 Dec 2018, 10:22 AM News
Mr Cerar, left, Mr Pompeo, right Mr Cerar, left, Mr Pompeo, right Screenshot from the embedded tweet

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STA, 15 December 2018 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington on Friday for talks focusing on the relationship between the two countries and the Western Balkans. Cerar also presented Slovenia's position on the implementation of the border arbitration award.

Cerar and Bolton noted good cooperation between their countries, expressing mutual interest for the cooperation to continue in the future.

According to Cerar, the Americans continue to appreciate Slovenia's insights into the Western Balkan region, which has been opening the door to Slovenian officials in Washington since independence.

Bolton knows the region and the burning issues, the most topical of which at the moment is relations between Serbia and Kosovo, Cerar said.

According to him, Bolton also inquired about Slovenia's opinion about the border talks between the two countries, with Cerar saying that the two countries needed to reach a comprehensive agreement to solve open issues between them for good.

Bolton told Cerar that the US was faced with a bit of a dilemma because some wanted them there and other less, so they were looking for a balanced approach, which was not easy to find.

Cerar briefed both Bolton and Pompeo on Slovenia's position on the border arbitration award. "I explained that Croatia was in fact in breach of international and European law in failing to implement the award," he said, adding that he also told them that neutrality was not enough when international law was at stake.

"Secretary of State Pompeo appreciated my clearly setting out our view and I believe the issue had not been presented to him this clearly before. Going back to talks wouldn't be productive. Croatia's ignoring international law is very bad for the whole Western Balkan region," said Cerar.

He added that he heard ministers and prime ministers from the region wondering how they were being expected to respect international law, while an EU member state, in this case Croatia, was not respecting it. Cerar said that he was assured by Pompeo the matter would be given a thorough consideration.

Cerar and Pompeo did not have time to broach all the global issues, but they did discuss those that Slovenia has a relevant position on. These are issues concerning the EU, relations with Russia, the Western Balkans and the relationship between the US and Slovenia.

The Slovenian foreign minister stressed the importance of EU accession for countries in the Western Balkans as soon as they meet the necessary conditions, while he labelled US presence in the region at the political level as very welcome.

"It is in the interest of Europe and Slovenia and probably also our allies in the US to include this region into transatlantic integrations as soon as possible because of security, stability and also because of geostrategic influences coming from outside the EU," Cerar said.

Pompeo and Cerar agreed business links should be enhanced, while Cerar said that the US did not consider Slovenia's relations with Russia problematic.

"We have a friendly relationship with Russia, which we're developing at the level of the economy and culture. But we're a reliable and responsible EU member. Slovenia joined the sanctions and demands the honouring of the Minsk agreement, meaning that Russia stop violating international law," Cerar said.

The minister also assured his hosts that Slovenia is determined to increase defence spending. The financial crisis caused a slowdown in this filed, but Cerar said the government would continue with the progress seen in the last four years.

Speaking to Slovenian reporters in Washington after the talks, Cerar was confident that his visit opened a new chapter in US-Slovenia relations. He invited Pompeo to visit Slovenia, saying that President Borut Pahor hosting the Three Seas Initiative next year would make a good opportunity.

Cerar was the first Slovenian foreign minister to visit the State Department since 2010.

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