Brdo pri Kranju, 3 May (STA) – Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec invited Russian investors to Slovenia on Friday, as he hosted his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at Brdo pri Kranju for talks revolving above all around business cooperation. Lavrov urged Slovenia to give the South Stream gas pipeline project national priority status.

Erjavec said at a press conference following the meeting that cooperation between the two countries was at an “exceptionally” high level. “Russia is Slovenia’s strategic partner in all perspectives: political, economic, cultural and other fields.”
Lavrov, who is in Slovenia on a working visit, shares Erjavec’s view, and he emphasised that there was great interest to create direct links between Slovenian and Russian regions to support investment projects.

The meeting of the two foreign ministers revolved around economic ties, including the South Stream gas pipeline. Running through Slovenia, the planned pipeline is to deliver gas to several European countries.

Erjavec labelled the project, valued at around EUR 1bn, as one of the most important projects for Slovenia. He said that Slovenia renewed today its dedication to the project and “to do everything necessary to realise” it.

Lavrov said that Russia appreciated the dedication of Slovenia’s government to South Stream and urged the country to give the project priority status. Lavrov’s visit comes only a week after the boss of Russian energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, was in Ljubljana.

Erjavec moreover told Lavrov that Slovenia was planning to privatise several of its state-owned companies and banks and invited Russian investors to participate.

Lavrov said he could not speak on behalf of business representatives. However, he believes they will be interested and is hopeful that the countries would deepen their investment cooperation.

He believes there remains much room for improvement, as currently Slovenia’s investments in Russia are twofold of Russia’s investments in Slovenia.

Lavrov and Erjavec also talked about international issues, including Syria. Lavrov told the press after the meeting that Russia was open to talks with the Syrian opposition.

However, the path to stopping the violence should not be sought in Moscow or any other capital of the world, but in concrete talks between the Syrian government and opposition, he added.

Touching on potential supply of weapons to Syrian opposition from abroad, Lavrov said it would not be wise to pour oil onto the flame. Instead, the Geneva Convention must be respected. Foreign players must step up pressure on both sides in the conflict and force them to make truce, he said.

The Slovenian and Russian foreign ministers also signed an agreement on cooperation in culture, science, education and sports and an agreement on war graves, a step to commemorate Russians that lost their lives in Slovenia during WWII.

According to the Russian Embassy in Ljubljana, several thousand Russians fought on Slovenian territory against the Fascist and Nazis during WWII. Some 3,000 Russian soldiers are buried in around 50 burial grounds around Slovenia.

Today, Lavrov attended a screening of a documentary entitled “Russian Battalion” about Russian troops, who fought here during World War II. He thanked Erjavec for the way Slovenia is keeping alive the memory of the Russians killed on its territory during World War I and World War II.

Lavrov moreover said that Russia would like to mark with special honours the centenary of the Russian Chapel in 2016. The chapel was built in memory of Russian POWs, who died in an avalanche while building the Vršič mountain pass (NW) in World War I.

The chapel is considered a symbol of friendship between Slovenia and Russia. Lavrov also said today that it held significant meaning to the Russian people.

Before the meeting with Erjavec, the Russian FM also held separate talks with President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek.