Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets says that the European Union needs to continue to present a united front in drawing up sanctions on the Russian Federation, in the aftermath of the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a crackdown on protests in that country.
"The unity of the EU is of key importance," Liimets said, at an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, which she attended in person on Monday.
"Regrettably, Russia is not genuinely interested in any constructive dialogue with the EU," she went on, according to a foreign ministry press release.
"The EU should proceed firmly as a principled values-based actor. It is extremely important that we reached a political agreement today on imposing sanctions against Russia in response to its treatment of Alexei Navalny and peaceful demonstrators."
Liimets also noted that the union has a new sanctions regime in place, now it has agreed to discuss the matter further.
"These are the first sanctions to be imposed based on the EU's new global human rights sanctions regime," she said.
Belarus and Ukraine also in focus
The minister also mentioned Belarus, as having a poor human rights situation months after the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko as president, and referenced, though not directly, Ukraine, as an Eastern Partnership (EaP) country which has had its territory compromised by the Russian Federation.
The EaP is a joint EU initiative to bring six Eastern European partner states, including both Belarus and Ukraine, into the fold in discussions on trade, economic strategy, travel agreements, and other issues with the union.
The Foreign Affairs Council meeting also discussed Hong Kong and violations of international law there by the People's Republic of China. Ministers noted the need to offer additional support to the democratic forces, fair trials and free media, the Estonian foreign ministry says.
Liimets: Transatlantic ties key
An informal discussion on transatlantic ties with new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought together the other strands noted above.
"Transatlantic relations – U.S.-EU cooperation – are crucial for Estonia. I am glad to see that today – a month after the new administration took office – the EU is discussing current international affairs with the U.S.," Liimets said.
Multilateralism and cooperation with the U.S. is crucial for the protection of the rules- and values-based international order, she said.
"We also need dialogue between the U.S. and the EU on China. To maintain stability, the EU and USA should also provide more efficient assistance to the union's immediate neighbours, primarily Ukraine and Georgia," Liimets went on.
The situation in Myanmar, the Sahel region and Iran was also on the table at the meeting.
Editor: Andrew Whyte