NEW YORK CITY: The EU has again ruled out the prospect of any peace talks with Russia that are not predicated on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, along with reparations and accountability for war crimes.
“This for us is the framing (within) which any discussion has to take place,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told Arab News on Thursday.
“When and how? I don’t know. But I want to make it clear, here, that it is not us who are refusing to open the way for negotiations. We are open and we will be always open.”
Borrell was speaking on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly emergency session marking the first anniversary of start of the war in Ukraine, at which an overwhelming majority of the 193 member states voted in favor of adopting an EU resolution titled “UN Charter principles underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”
Unlike a Security Council resolution, it does not have the binding force of international law behind it but it could nevertheless further contribute to the growing isolation of Russia on the world stage.
The draft resolution, sponsored by about 60 countries, calls for an end to hostilities and for Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw its military forces from Ukraine. It reaffirms the UN’s “commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Kyiv was able to garner a broad show of support for the resolution among UN member nations, as it has done in the past year for several other resolutions denouncing the actions of Russia. However, Borrell was under no illusions about the chances that the latest UN rebuke to Moscow would bring about a speedy resolution to the conflict.
“Unhappily, I am afraid that the war will continue,” he said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen or when.
“What I know (is that) every day (there) is an intensification of the Russian attacks, an intensification of the Russians massing troops. Before the invasion, they massed 150,000 soldiers; now they have 300,000 soldiers on the front line — so twice the number they had when they launched the invasion. They are bombing 50,000 shots every day.”
Amid the rising human cost of the war, some analysts have called on the EU to encourage the Ukrainians to strike a deal whereby they cede control of part of the occupied Donbas region to Russia in exchange for Moscow accepting the admittance of Ukraine to the EU, with all the security guarantees that would come with that. They argue that the Ukrainian people previously rose up and toppled two domestic dictators because they wanted to join the EU and that this remains their goal.
But Borrell said that given “the reality that we are facing,” it is imperative that military support for Ukraine continues, along with international sanctions on the Russian economy and efforts to “isolate Russia diplomatically — that’s what we are trying to do these days here (in New York.)”
He added: “On one hand, we have to support someone who’s being attacked. On the other hand, we have to keep open the possibility of ceasefire and negotiation.
“On which terms? We already have said: Respect (of) the territorial integrity of Ukraine; respect (of) the sovereignty of Ukraine; asking for accountability and war reparations.
“This is for us the framing (within) which any discussion have to take place. And when a window of opportunity comes to start discussing this, we will be the first to take (the) initiative.”