EU summit called for Thursday in Brussels

European leaders hope to see ‘de-escalation’ of situation on Crimea

EU  representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton. She clarified that the EU was demanding that Russia move its troops back to its military bases

EU representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton. She clarified that the EU was demanding that Russia move its troops back to its military bases

 


European leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will convene in Brussels on Thursday for an emergency summit, after foreign ministers refrained from imposing immediate sanctions on Russia yesterday.

The decision effectively imposes a deadline by which Russia must “de-escalate” the situation in Crimea, before targeted sanctions will be imposed.

Following yesterday’s meeting, foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton clarified that the EU was demanding that Russia move its troops back to its military bases.

“I understand that the president of the European Council will indeed convene a European Council this week. It’s very important that between now and then we do everything we possibly can, that we try to get this situation de-escalated,” she said.

Foreign ministers failed to reach a definitive decision on sanctions yesterday, which is now likely to be the focus of discussion at an EU summit on Thursday.

Mr Kenny will travel to Brussels for the meeting, which could overshadow the European People’s Party (EPP) congress in Dublin.

With the meeting expected to finish at about 3pm, relevant leaders are expected to travel to Dublin directly where they are due to vote on their candidate for European Commission president.


Russian ambassador
Meanwhile Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said yesterday he had summoned the Russian ambassador to Ireland for talks today.

“I will be communicating directly to him and asking him to communicate to his government the views of Ireland and indeed the views that were reached here at the council meeting,” Mr Gilmore said following a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels.

He described the situation in Crimea as the “worst crisis that Europe has faced since the end of the Cold War”.

“There are consequences for the bilateral relationship between the European Union and Russia if they do not work to de-escalate this crisis. Those consequences will include the suspension of the talks on visa liberalisation and the suspension of the talks on the EU’s agreement with Russia and further measures if we feel that is necessary.”

This would include targeted sanctions, he added.

In its conclusion to the meeting published after yesterday’s foreign affairs council, ministers called on Russia to “immediately withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing, in accordance with the Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet stationing on the territory of Ukraine of 1997”.

The European Union also “strongly condemns the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces as well as the authorisation given by the Federation Council of Russia on March 1st for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine,” foreign ministers said.

Ms Ashton is due to hold talks with Russia foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today in Madrid before travelling to Kiev. She reiterated that the European Union is continuing to work with international organisations on a financial package for Ukraine to address its “urgent economic needs”.

The decision by foreign ministers not to impose sanctions at this point has put the focus on Thursday’s meeting – the first emergency summit of EU leaders on foreign affairs issues since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.