Russia, European Union ‘Can Settle Differences’: Putin

Russia, European Union ‘Can Settle Differences’: Putin
Thu May 26, 2016 14:09:28

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country and the European Union (EU) can resolve their differences over the Ukrainian conflict, which has plunged their relations into bitterness and tit-for-tat sanctions.

Putin made the remark in an article published in the Greek daily Kathimerini on Wednesday ahead of a trip to Greece on May 27-28, and a week after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she expected EU sanctions against Russia to be renewed after they expire in July.

In his article, Putin wrote, “We believe that our relations with the EU do not face any problems that we cannot solve. To get back to a multifaceted partnership, the deficient approach of one-sided relationships should be abandoned.”

“There should be true respect for each other’s opinions and interests,” the Russian president said, adding that the two sides have come to a “crossroads.”

“I am convinced that we should draw appropriate conclusions from the events in Ukraine and proceed to establishing, in the vast space stretching between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, a zone of economic and humanitarian cooperation based on the architecture of equal and indivisible security,” he wrote.

The relations between Moscow and the EU strained after the latter, along with the United States, imposed economic sanctions on Russia in July 2014. The move was taken after the then-Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula decided in a referendum to join Russia.

Nearly 97 percent of Crimean citizens voted in favor of secession, with a turnout of over 83 percent.

Russia retaliated with sanctions of its own.

The Ukrainian government later engaged in a military crackdown in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where the ethnic Russian-speaking population had been staging pro-Russia demonstrations for some time.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine soon turned into a full-blown war, leaving over 9,300 people dead and over 21,000 others injured, according to the United Nations.

Russia and Ukraine, along with Germany and France, agreed to a truce deal for Ukraine in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in February 2015. The ceasefire agreement reduced hostilities in the eastern regions of Ukraine but sporadic fighting continues to occur.

Washington and its European allies have been accusing Moscow of having a hand in the conflict. Moscow denies the accusation.

In an interview with the Baltic News Service (BNS) released on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the EU was facing tough talks on extending the sanctions, adding that the West needed to engage in dialogue with Russia to “rebuild” lost trust.

“We are aware that resistance in the EU to extending the sanctions towards Russia has increased. It will be more difficult than it was last year to find a common position on this issue,” he added.

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