BRUSSELS: The EU on Monday insisted all parties must fully implement the Minsk ceasefire accords to restore peace in Ukraine, after US President Donald Trump stoked fresh concerns he could take a softer line on Russia.
Trump repeated over the weekend he wanted to work with President Vladimir Putin to fight the Islamic State group, and drew fire from across the US political spectrum by playing down alleged political assassinations in Russia.
The White House also raised eyebrows by referring to “Ukraine’s long-running conflict with Russia”—a framing of the situation that former national security advisor Susan Rice publicly criticized as a “distortion of… recent history”.
Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014 and has supported separatists in the east of the country.
Asked about the US administration’s remarks, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said she could not speculate about their meaning but she was clear what the European Union’s position was.
The 28-nation bloc would “continue not to recognize” the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, Mogherini said as she arrived for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
The EU also recognizes “the need to fully implement the Minsk agreements, including or starting from a ceasefire and restoring calm to east Ukraine,” she said.
“I cannot say where the US administration stands… I can only say where the EU stands on this,” Mogherini added.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stressed there could be no easing of sanctions on Russia until peace was restored in Ukraine.
“The UK will be insisting that there is no case for relaxation of the sanctions, there is every case for keeping up pressure on Russia,” Johnson said as he went into the meeting.
He said everyone was concerned by the recent upsurge in fighting between government troops and pro-Moscow rebels in the east.
Russia annexed Crimea after pro-EU protestors ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, sparking a conflict which has cost nearly 10,000 lives and plunged EU ties with Moscow into a deep freeze.
Trump meanwhile has repeatedly said he wants to improve relations with Putin, appearing to downplay events in Ukraine to the dismay of historic US allies in Europe. AFP