Crucial world summit

Negotiations between the presidents of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine

Minsk city becomes major centre of European policy
By Lilia Khlystun

Minsk city becomes major centre of European policy

Certainly, the crisis in Ukraine was the main theme at negotiations between the presidents of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine and top representatives of the European Union. The format was the first of its kind and was preceded by much media conjecture. Ukrainian colleagues were clearly excited by the meeting, to which they pinned hopes for the launch of a peaceful settlement of their conflict. Russian journalists had their own views but one thing was clear: negotiations would not be easy.


Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko and Nursultan Nazarbayev

Intrigue remained after almost four hours of conversation, and work continued through an evening meal. The press could not help but speculate and it was nearly 9pm before any announcements were made. Mr. Lukashenko was the first to speak, declaring, “We’ve seriously discussed all complex questions connected with the crisis in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the situation is so serious that no decision can be made without top-level discussion. Separate steps and technical arrangements cannot settle the conflict. We’ve decided to develop a comprehensive action plan to suit all interests; negotiations were not easy but dialogue was substantial and extremely frank. It is vital and so valuable that this dialogue has finally occurred. During almost four hours of discussions, all sides expressed their opinions. Positions differ — even cardinally — but, importantly, we’ve agreed on one thing: we must search for compromise. During discussion of the conflict in the east of Ukraine, all sides agreed on the necessity of de-escalation, liberation of hostages, and humanitarian assistance. It is essential that we prevent humanitarian catastrophe. Especially now, on the eve of winter.”

The President of Belarus described the main agreed points of action as: the decision for Minsk to lead in hosting future meetings between the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine (and for the next to be held soon); for the working group to suggest ways of smoothing the waters between the Customs Union and Russia towards Ukraine, following its signing of the EU Association Agreement; and that future meetings in Minsk would follow the same format (as suggested by the President of Kazakhstan and fully supported).

Economic problems centred on the energy sphere, with transit and gas deliveries causing much debate. It was the first such high level dialogue between the two most powerful integration associations on the continent.

The importance of the Minsk summit cannot be overstated, involving top politicians and experts. Events in Ukraine, at the centre of Europe, have roused close attention worldwide, as evinced by the attendance of two Deputy Chairs of the European Commission — Catherine Ashton and Günther Oettinger — and the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht. President Lukashenko especially noted that no intermediaries had been sent to the meeting, showing that all sides were eager to see the situation resolved promptly. Public interest runs high and almost 200 journalists from 72 media outlets, across two dozen countries, covered the meeting.

Mr. Lukashenko recalled that, during the inauguration of the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko asked that the Customs Union refrain from applying sanctions to Ukraine following its signing of the EU Association Agreement, requesting that Mr. Lukashenko carry his plea to the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan. Mr. Poroshenko suggested holding a meeting to discuss problems and the President of Belarus fulfilled the request of his Ukrainian colleague: a series of meetings was organised between heads of states, in Minsk.

Mr. Lukashenko noted, “I’m convinced that nobody in this hall wishes to profit from the current situation; the idea is blasphemy. Our nations have entrusted us, presidents, with their destinies. What should we do in response to this trust? Are we to leave smoking ruins and razed homes in place of smoking factory chimneys? Are we to doom our people to suffering? It seems to me that we’ve had enough suffering in the past. If we want to be considered responsible politicians, we should fully recognize the load of responsibility before our nations, forfeit political ambitions and seek no dividends, rather considering the destiny of ordinary people: the elderly and children — who cry, suffer and die.”

The first step in this direction has now been made. After the five-sided meeting, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko met in private, as is natural. Besides the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine, the two presidents had economic problems to discuss.

The countries of the Customs Union are concerned by the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement; according to Vladimir Putin, total damage to the Russian economy may surpass 100 billion Russian Roubles. A flood of European goods onto the Ukrainian market as a consequence of Ukraine dropping all import duties for EU goods could place many sectors of industry and agro-industry at risk. To protect its own market, Russia will be compelled to annul duty-free imports from Ukraine, introducing standard modes of trade. Mr. Poroshenko has agreed to create a monitoring group to estimate real losses for the Customs Union from Ukraine-EU association and to discuss mutual recognition of certificates.

Negotiations in Minsk ended with a tripartite meeting of the presidents of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.


Vladimir Putin:

Russia respects and will continue to respect the sovereign choice of any nation and any country in the organisation of its own political life and in the organisation of unions — military and economic. We hope that this won’t be to the detriment of other participants of international dialogue or at our expense.

Nursultan Nazarbayev:

We must primarily provide humanitarian help to casualties in Ukraine. The Russian Federation has already begun to do so and international organisations, including the Customs Union and the CIS, should take part in this process. It is vital that we provide impartial international control over the delivery of humanitarian help. Therefore, I call upon those in conflict to declare armistice while assistance is rendered to those suffering.

Petro Poroshenko:

The destiny of the world and Europe is being solved here. The purpose of my arrival in Minsk has been to stop bloodshed and to begin the process of searching for political compromise.

Catherine Ashton:

It’s vital that leaders of countries across the region are involved in dialogue, to find solutions. Our position is clear: we support the choice of Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation’s path. It’s important for them to have good relations with the EU, and with other neighbours.

Positive meaning of the meeting

By Vladimir Khromov

Russian President Vladimir Putin stresses his desire to do all possible to facilitate peace process in Ukraine, speaking after one-to-one meeting with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

Mr. Putin tells us, “We talked about the need for an immediate end to the bloodshed and the need to move to a political settlement for the problems Ukraine is facing in its southeast. Russia will do everything it can to aid this peace process and believes this process should begin as soon as possible.”

He noted that, during the meeting with Mr. Poroshenko, the whole range of Russian-Ukrainian relationships came to the fore, including economic interaction.

“We believe — both I and President Poroshenko — that we need to resume our dialogue on energy, including relating to gas problems. Frankly, it’s a complex issue and we’ve reached deadlock, so we still need to talk. We’ve agreed that we’ll continue consultations,” explained the Russian President. Mr. Putin added that an agreement has been reached to restore the work of the contact group Russia-OSCE-Ukraine.

Speaking about the wider meeting between the presidents of the Customs Union states, Ukraine and top EU representatives, Mr. Putin noted that he assessed the meeting as having been positive. He tells us, “I believe that the meeting in this format was useful. Although I don’t know the long-term results, we’ve had an opportunity to voice our concerns once more.” He added that it was agreed to intensify the activity of the working group — which involves representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. The Russian President reminded that the proposals will be elaborated until September 12th, tackling the concerns of Russia and the Customs Union regarding the EU Association Agreement, signed by the Ukrainian side. Mr. Putin stressed that Ukraine’s introduction of EU technical regulations will prevent Russia supplying almost all its goods to Ukraine (and vice versa for Ukrainian produce).

Vital to meet expectations

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev positively assesses meeting between heads of Customs Union states, Ukraine and EU regarding Ukrainian issue

Mr. Nazarbayev has stated, “A very important event has taken place, drawing the attention of the whole world. This meeting was awaited by everyone and I think will yield results.” He underlines the fact that the negotiating process has been launched on all sides: vital in the current situation. The President of Kazakhstan praised the high level of organisation of the meeting and was the last to leave Minsk following the summit. As ever, he expressed his adoration of Belarus as a nation and thanked the President of Belarus for his warm reception.
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