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Ukraine Foreign Minister: “Ready to talk to Russia”

 ~President Toomas Ilves of Estonia: Sanctions a “slap on the wrist”~


Transcripts, audio, video on the web:

BRUSSELS (March 21, 2014) – On the opening day of the ninth Brussels Forum, Andrii Deshchytsia, acting foreign minister of Ukraine, said that Ukraine has not given up Crimea following the peninsula’s annexation by the Russian Federation. “The Crimea is not lost for us,” he said. But he also stressed that his country is seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis.

“We believe that it’s only through dialogue we can find a solution. We are ready to talk with Russians,” he said. “We are ready to talk about the existing crisis, the existing state of affairs. We are ready to talk about the Russian minority in Ukraine, the Russian language in Ukraine. We are ready to talk about the Constitution reform in the Ukraine, but only if it’s talks around the table, but not on the streets with the guns.”

Deshchytsia spoke at Brussels Forum, an annual conference on transatlantic relations organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, congressional representatives, parliamentarians, and academics.

Deshchytsia also said that he feels his country is ready to begin talks about the EU accession process. “As a Ukrainian,” he said, “I can say that we feel like Europeans. We want to be Europeans.” He went on to say, however, that Ukraine has no plans to try to join NATO at this stage.

During the day’s first session, President of Estonia Toomas Ilves strongly criticized actions taken last night by EU leadership with regards to sanctions on Russia. “We are doing nothing about it in Europe, because, let’s face it, what they agreed upon is really kind of piddly,” he said. “You pull out a couple of people, say that they’re bad, and that’s all we’re going to do. It’s a slap on the wrist.”

During the same session, the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, defended his country’s actions in Crimea, saying that they were a reaction to a crisis in Ukraine. “We saw a clear danger of a failed state,” he said.
Ilves did not accept this explanation. “First you destabilize a country and then express concern that it’s a failed state?” he asked. “It’s a bit disingenuous.”
At a session earlier in the day, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the of goal Western responses to the annexation was to “diffuse crises on our borders.”

“Europe and North America must stand together,” he said. “This is how we can best stand up to those who break the rules we all agreed on.” He went on to say that NATO is ready and able to defend its allies.
Later in the day, Vitalii Klychko, the chairman of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform Party, said that what was happening in his country was very painful, even though he was happy the former government was no longer in power.

“The Russian intervention destroys the Western system of security,” he said. “It’s not just a problem of Crimea, and not just a problem of Ukraine. It’s a problem of all Western security.”

Also today, GMF announced the 2014 recipients of the Asmus Policy Entrepreneurs Fellowship. Named after Ronald D. Asmus, the former executive director of GMF’s Brussels office, who died on April 30, 2011, the Asmus fellows were selected as promising young foreign policy professionals whose fellowship projects show a commitment to the transatlantic relationship and will challenge existing foreign policy practices — two ideas that Asmus embodied. Julie Egan and Erik Brattberg have been selected as 2014 Asmus Fellows. Julie Egan is an economic adviser for the U.S. Department of State. During her fellowship, Egan will explore “The Maghreb and Wider Atlantic Partnerships: Challenges and Opportunities.” Erik Brattberg is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and researcher for the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Brattberg’s proposal is entitled “A ‘Second Transatlantic Anchor’? The Strategic Implications of TTIP for Strengthening the EU-U.S. Partnership.”

Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. With over 50 countries represented and more than 400 attendees, the ninth edition of Brussels Forum include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media. GMF is joined in this initiative by our founding partners Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium. We are also very pleased to welcome as strategic partners BP, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, the OCP Policy Center, Lilly, Bank of America, and the Government of Montenegro. In addition, we would like to recognize the support of our forum partners Deloitte, Brussels Capital Region, Chevron, Solvay, NATO, ApexBrasil, Asan Institute for Policy Studies, the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the European Union, and Wilfried Maartens Centre for European Studies. Finally, we appreciate the backing of our dinner program partners IBM, Japan Foundation, and the Ford Motor Company. GMF also thanks Star Alliance, the official airline network for Brussels Forum.

(GMF), with major support from the Federal Authorities of Belgium and Daimler, will host the ninth Brussels Forum, an annual high-level meeting of top international political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges facing both sides of the Atlantic. Participants include senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials, U.S. Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and private sector representatives.

Anne McGinn
+1 202 415 1195

Sarah Halls
+32 (0)484 491 078