Retaking Eastern Ukraine Areas Does Not Mean an End to Conflict, Says Paet ({{commentsTotal}})

The annexation of Crimea means an end to hostilities in eastern Ukraine does not mean an end to the conflict, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told in an interview on Tuesday.

“Political talks have to move forward to avoid a repeat and for a deeper settling,” Paet said, adding that reconciliation is also needed. “Then there is the question of Crimea, which should not be forgotten. Crimea is currently annexed and occupied by Russia – that must not be accepted and should not be abandoned in an international context.”

Speaking about the decreased role Russia is playing in the region, Paet said Russia has stepped up border checks, with no more weapons of fighters moving across.

Russia must also change its attitude towards the separatists and support reconciliation in Ukraine, he said. “The grand picture is of course Russia still pushing for a Euroasian Union and a customs uniona, with Ukraine a part of that.”

“In many aspects Ukraine has been divided for a long time,” Paet said, adding that newly elected President Petro Poroshenko has great support in Ukraine, which does not mean he fared will in the eastern parts. If Russia does not intervene, then Poroshenko could prove to be a success.

Poroshenko visited Sloviansk on Tuesday, which was recently recaptured by the Ukrainian army. The major cities of Donetsk and Luhansk could be the next focus of major fighting. Three bridges on roads leading to Donetsk were blown up on Monday, possibly to hinder military movements.

Speaking about a third wave of sanctions, Paet said the current methods are working, if only looking at the vast amount of money leaving Russia. “A third wave of sanctions is not impossible. It depends on how Ukraine develops and which strategy Russia chooses.”


Not all bright in the Balkans

EU enlargement in the Balkans region will be the major topic of a meeting of EU foreign ministers later this week. Paet said there is little progress in the area.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, has shown no progress in the past few years. Macedonia has internal tensions, and the row over the name of the state with Greece has not gone away. Montenegro has moved forward, but still has much to do,” he said.

There are still several European nations who do not recognize the independence of Kosovo, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

“The general trend is positive in the whole of the western Balkans, but the situation remains complex. The current state of development sadly is not at a stage where we can say it is irreversible,” Paet said.

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