UK's Liz Truss meets Balkan foreign ministers to secure regional peace and prosperity

Meeting supported UK efforts to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkans

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British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met six Balkan foreign ministers in London on Monday to discuss strengthening economic and security ties, and supporting freedom and stability in the region.

Ms Truss held talks with counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The UK is keen to persuade international allies to “protect hard-won peace” in a region where tension has grown increasingly fraught.

The discussions come after the chief international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, German diplomat Christian Schmidt, warned that the 1995 peace deal that stopped the country’s civil war could unravel.

Bosnian Serb separatist's threats have fuelled tension in the region and there have been concerns over Russian involvement.

Mr Schmidt has said the Balkan nation could break up if the international community does not curb threatened divisive actions by Bosnian Serb leader and presidency member Milorad Dodik, who has tacit support from Russia and Serbia.

The UK thinks now is a critical moment for the western Balkans and that it is important that the peace, freedom and democracy that was hard won more than 20 years ago is maintained.

“I recently hosted the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Liverpool where a discussion was held on the western Balkans and ministers welcomed the stepping up of the UK presence," Ms Truss said.

"I want the UK and our allies to build closer economic and security ties with the region, which will boosts jobs and growth and help support a freer, wealthier, more secure western Balkans.

“I also welcomed representatives from the EU and the US to these discussions and emphasised the need to work together on stepping up our efforts to find lasting solutions to reduce tensions in the region.

“As part of this effort, the UK has appointed Sir Stuart Peach as special envoy to the Western Balkans.

"He has long experience in the region, as former UK Chief of the Defence Staff and Chairman of Nato’s military committee, and will visit the region tomorrow to take forward our engagement.

“This is part of the FCDO’s mission to create a global network of liberty based around deeper economic, tech, security and development ties.

"As freedom-loving democracies, the UK will help the western Balkans defend and advance the cause of liberty. They have our full support to not only survive, but thrive."

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office talked up Britain’s role in hosting the western Balkans Summit in 2018.

At the gathering three years ago, leaders of the six countries made commitments in joint declarations on regional co-operation and good neighbourly relations, war crimes, and missing persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

MPs in a Commons debate this month said Britain must be prepared to send its troops back to Bosnia to save lives amid fears over a conflict erupting.

Conservative MP Bob Stewart, a former UN commander who led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, stressed the need to prevent fighting between communities in the country.

Party colleague Sir Bernard Jenkin warned Russia was “stoking the ethnic tensions” and encouraging the separatists as the Kremlin wanted to worsen western Europe’s refugee crisis.

Updated: December 14, 2021, 3:55 AM
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