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Ukraine (Q&A - Excerpt from the daily press briefing - March 14, 2014)

Q : Are Mr. Fabius and Mr. Le Drian still planning to go to Russia on March 18?

A : A meeting will take place based on the progress that has been made on Ukraine, and if we see any movement on the Russian side indicating that it might be useful. That’s what the foreign minister said yesterday during his joint press briefing with his Irish counterpart.

Q : How do you define the word “useful”?

A : In diplomacy, “useful” means any meeting that could lead to progress—in this case, progress toward easing the crisis and finding a solution in Ukraine.

Q : Do you expect any results from the Kerry-Lavrov meeting this afternoon?

A : The coming hours and days will be very important in determining whether the situation is calming down and whether a diplomatic solution can be found. As Laurent Fabius has said repeatedly, we are waiting for clear and positive signals from Russia with respect to easing the crisis.

Q : What do you mean by “positive signals”?

A : Anything that can help ease the situation: a rejection of violence, respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity; respect for international law; respect for the freedom of the press and for journalists’ right to freely do their job throughout Ukraine. And, of course, Russia’s respect for its bilateral agreements with Ukraine and the return of Russian troops to their permanent bases.

Q : Have scenarios been envisaged in the event that Russia does not respond positively?

A : Our efforts are guided by two principles: dialogue and firmness. We are constantly in contact with the Russian authorities. Laurent Fabius has spoken with Mr. Lavrov several times and met with him in Paris last week. Furthermore, we are standing firm and have adopted sanctions within the European framework. We now hope for a de-escalation and to receive clear and positive signals from the Russian authorities.

One of our fellow journalists was arrested yesterday by militias that, I imagine, weren’t wearing any insignias. So we have a situation in which troops arrive, remove their insignias and arrest journalists.

I reiterated France’s position, which is very clear and firm: We demand respect for the freedom of the press throughout Ukraine and particular in Crimea. All journalists, regardless of nationality, must be able to work without pressure and without the risk of kidnapping and captivity.

Q : Do we know for sure if reinforcements from Russia are entering the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea?

A : I have no information on that specific point. We call for the respect of the bilateral agreements signed by Ukraine and Russia.

Q : Why haven’t Mistral sales to Russia been suspended yet? Are you waiting for a further round of sanctions that would be taken on a national level?

A : President Hollande spoke about this, and he indicated that we weren’t there yet. We’d rather not reach that point. Everything must be done to ensure that negotiations get under way.

The European Union adopted a first round of targeted, effective sanctions, at the decision of heads of state and government. We said very clearly that we hoped this first round of sanctions would lead to a de-escalation.

The member states wanted to give precedence to diplomacy, while reserving the possibility of adopting other sanctions if the Russian authorities prove not to be open to dialogue.

Q : What types of sanctions will be adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday?

A : Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are still hoping for a diplomatic and political solution. Discussions are still going on. If we see no progress toward a de-escalation, firmness will prevail during a second round.

Q : Concretely speaking, de-escalation within two days means what exactly?

A : What I said: respect for international law, respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and respect for the bilateral agreements between Ukraine and Russia, with the return of troops to their permanent bases..

Within two days, that will be complicated…

We will make our assessment based on any signals we see toward an easing of tensions. What we expect from Russia is quite clear.

Q : Klitschko and Poroshenko proposed an option during their visit to Paris a week ago: a Ukraine-wide referendum on Crimea. What do you think of that?

A : A national unity government has been formed in Ukraine. It’s up to it to make proposals. The important thing is to respect every community, not to allow violence among them, and to respect Ukraine’s diversity, within its borders. Within its borders, Ukrainian political actors are free to organize their political and administrative life. But respect for its borders is key. Respect for territorial integrity is a central tenet of international relations.

Q : Is there a list of legal and illegal referendums? Where does the difference lie? Why Scotland and not Crimea?

A : In Ukraine, there is a Constitution. The vote announced for Sunday is not in compliance with the Ukrainian Constitution.


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All rights reserved - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development - 2014