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Ukraine, Mogherini at NATO Ministerial -Kiev must not be faced with East-West choice. Marines, Syrian crisis

NATO realises that support from the international community is needed to ensure that Ukraine is not faced with a choice between East and West, between its relationship with the EU and that with Russia. This was Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini’s comment at the close of the NATO Ministerial, at which Ukraine was a key issue on the two-day agenda. Minister Mogherini added that in the medium-term an environment must be created that will allow Kiev to maintain its relations with both the East and the West.

For this reason, all the participants agree on the need to keep the channels of dialogue open, and view the political solution as they only one possible. The foreign ministers also underscored the strategic need to maintain some form of NATO-Russia partnership, although they have decided in the meantime to suspend all forms of practical collaboration with Moscow.

Make Ukraine a successful country to overcome the crisis

“The most important part of the NATO Ministerial was dedicated to support for Ukraine”, reiterated Minister Mogherini, because “the best response to the crisis is to make Ukraine a successful country”. As she pointed out, “the challenges involve economic support (on which the EU and the IMF are working), measures to strengthen security with help from NATO, and support for the political and democratic process currently under way”.

Presidential elections a key event in the calendar

“The presidential elections on 25 May will be a key event in the calendar”, observed the foreign minister. “Everyone at the Ministerial recognised that these must be free, transparent and inclusive to ensure that a process of broader democratic legitimacy can gain momentum”. Mogherini underscored that “the constitutional reform process must be in Ukrainian hands, but it must be inclusive and must recognise the country’s complexity and take the national reconciliation process into account”.

On this last point, Minister Mogherini welcomed the Kiev Parliament’s decision to “begin the process of disarming the groups that are illegally continuing to carry arms”. The government’s monopoly over armed power is “a vital element in the country’s stability and security and, therefore, in its democratic process”.

Concrete commitment to Kiev now needed

“International leaders and officials have been engaged in a constant flow of visits to Ukraine” observed Mogherini. But while the need to show our solidary and commitment is understandable, “there is an awareness, on the part of the international community and of the Kiev government itself, that we are now moving on to the next stage. The question is no longer one of solidarity or reassurance, but of concrete commitment to ensure that Ukraine becomes a success story”.

Italy weighing up its contribution to NATO defence in the East

“Italy”, commented Mogherini, “is weighing up the various forms of participation and the contribution it can make to send out a stronger message of reassurance to the NATO countries nearest to the Ukrainian and Russian borders, as decided by the Ministerial”.

Kiev’s decision to stay out of NATO was wise

Minister Mogherini views the Kiev government’s decision not to include a request to join NATO in the agenda as “wise”. She described this choice as “a politically important signal that, surreal as this may seem right now, ensures that in the future a relationship between Ukraine and all of its neighbours, including Russia, is both possible and feasible”.

Next NATO Ministerial – June 2014

Military expenditure in Europe will be high on the agenda of the next NATO Ministerial in June 2014, in the run-up to the September Summit in Wales. “It’s a hot topic that’s popular in many European countries, Italy included”, observed Minister Mogherini. “We need to look not just at the percentage of GDP invested in defence but also, and above all, at how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of that investment. The Alliance, and the degree of integration possible between NATO and the European Union provides an added value that is still to be explored”.

Syria: stalemate extremely worrying

Turning to Syria, Minister Mogherini noted that “the situation is not just highly complex, but has reached an extremely worrying stalemate. The degree of frustration over the diplomatic process risks undermining the political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict”.

“At present”, added Mogherini, “the strained relations with Russia do not appear to be causing direct repercussions in Syria. But it is clear that other situations – the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear power, the situation in Afghanistan and several other dossiers – could easily be further complicated by a situation of tension. A situation that we hope will be resolved in the shortest time possible”.

“It is for this reason, among others, that Italy and other countries have insisted, from the outset, on the need to keep the partnership with Russia clearly in view”, continued Mogherini. “In Italy, we have been focusing on the energy question. But it is more on the cooperative approach to crisis resolution, primarily regional but also global crises, that we need to persuade Russia to play a responsible role at the global level”.

Marines: functional immunity important for NATO

For Italy, “it is important, in the case of the two marines held in India, for the international community to recognise that functional immunity is an important issue for all of us”. A principle, underscored Minister Mogherini, that the Secretary General of NATO has already recognised.

“Marines Girone and Latorre were not in India for personal reasons. They were in service. It is extremely important for this to be recognised, and the fact that Rasmussen has declared that the issue does not just concern Italy and India is what we mean when we speak of ‘internationalisation’ of the case”. In this light, concluded Minister Mogherini, “NATO and the Secretary General have helped and I think they’ll continue to do so”.