Sunday, January 16, 2022

"Remain open to dialogue" – EU foreign ministers draw up plan for dealing with Russia

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How should the European Union react to Russia given the tensions with Ukraine? The foreign ministers have agreed on a plan for this. Baerbock and her French counterpart want to visit Ukraine.

The foreign ministers of the European Union have agreed on a ten-point plan for a unified approach to dealing with Russia. The concept provides for a mixture of deterrence and dialogue in view of the Russian troop deployment on the border with Ukraine.

For example, preparations for new sanctions are to be continued with partners such as the USA. At the same time, the willingness to take confidence-building measures and support for possible new agreements on disarmament and arms control is emphasized.

“The EU is ready to react immediately to possible aggression (by Russia). But we prefer negotiations,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after the two-day meeting in the north-western French port of Brest. In addition to the Russian troop deployment, the background to the consultations was Moscow’s demands for new security agreements with the West.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian also agreed to visit Ukraine together. After her inaugural visit to Kiev on Monday, Baerbock wanted to “prepare a joint Franco-German visit to the demarcation line,” said Le Drian. “France and Germany will continue their efforts to achieve a return to the implementation of the Minsk Agreement.” Baerbock will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

Russia is demanding that NATO renounce the admission of countries such as Ukraine and Georgia and the withdrawal of armed forces from eastern alliance states. According to western secret services, the current Russian troop deployment is related to this. He is said to stir up fears of a Russian invasion in order to persuade NATO to make concessions.

Independently of this, according to his chief of staff Andrii Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed a tripartite summit with the presidents of the USA and Russia. The growing tensions in Ukraine should be discussed, Yermak said in Kiev on Friday. “We are still waiting for a reaction from the Russian side,” said Yermak. “But our American partners have responded to our proposal with interest.”

The proposal for a tripartite summit without the Europeans comes at a time when the German government is making increasing efforts to revive the so-called Normandy format. In these rounds, representatives of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia advise. Only on Tuesday did Selenskyj call for a new summit meeting in the so-called Normandy format with Russia, Germany and France. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrii Melnyk, had demanded in a Reuters interview that the United States should join this format.

Most Ukrainians would defend their country in the event of a Russian attack, Yermak said. The current tensions are a matter of “life and death”. He renewed his country’s demand to join the western military alliance NATO. Russia rejects this, and NATO confirmed the prospect of membership at the beginning of the week. In 2014, Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula in a dispute over Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU. In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists control large areas. Russia issued Russian passports in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

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