Ukraine Crisis Dominates the European Ministers' Talks in Vienna

DSC_8133The Foreign Ministers of all 47 member states representing of the Council of Europe met today at the Hofburg in Vienna. The meeting was chaired by Sebastian Kurz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers.

The meeting was also attended by the Russian foreign Minister Mr. Sergei Lavrov and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. As side of the meeting, the Russian and the Ukrainian ministers held separate press conferences in which the general atmosphere reflected that peace between the two conflicted countries is far a way.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “We are confident that an exit from the crisis exists. It may be found only on the basis of nationwide dialogue”. He added that the dialogue must be held between the western and eastern parts of Ukraine and that it would be “unusual” to hold a presidential election in Ukraine while the government was deploying the army against some of its people.

Minister Lavrov also demanded that Ukrainian government troops end their armed assaults on rebel strongholds, as fighting flared for control of the strategic eastern city of Slovyansk.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Deshchytsia stated that Ukraine is ready to back a new round of talks in Geneva in a bid to de-escalate a political crisis with Russia as long as the government in Moscow supports presidential elections on 25 May.

He added: “If Russia is ready to commit itself to support these elections and to eliminate this threat and eliminate its support for the extremist elements in Ukraine, we are ready to have such a round of meetings,” he told a news conference.

DSC_8111Earlier, when he arrived at the morning, the British Foreign Minister William Hague told reporters that Russia was trying to disrupt Ukraine’s planned presidential election. He said: “Russia seems to be intent to hinder and prevent the elections in Ukrania”. He added: “I think there will be a very strong message from the great majority of countries here today that Ukrainian elections must be allowed to go ahead”.

Minister Hague also criticized the executions sentences in Egypt, in which an Egyptian court sentenced over 1200 people to death. He said that the EU countries have a unified view against the death penalty and the violation of human rights. He called on the Egyptian authorities to reconsider the death sentences and to not implement them.

Ukraine’s presidential election is set to take place on May 25 but Moscow has called the vote “absurd”, while separatists in Ukraine are preparing their own independence referendum on Sunday.

Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz said that nearly all ministers called for free and fair elections as a step to stabilize Ukraine. 

He told reporters: “You cannot expect miracles from the conference because there won’t be any, but hopefully, and this is my expectation, there will be clear backing from most countries for orderly and free (presidential) elections on May 25, because this could be a small step towards stabilizing the country”.

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