Photo: Eli Mandelbaum
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Photo: Eli Mandelbaum

Israel breaks silence on Ukraine: We hope conflict is resolved peacefully

Efforts to resolve the crisis make little apparent headway with Russia and US at odds, while NATO cuts back cooperation with Russia to try to pressure it to back down on Ukraine.

Israel has finally broken its long silence on the crisis in Ukraine Wednesday night, when Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a statement, Israeli media reported.



"Israel is following the events in Ukraine with grave concern, worries for the safety of the Ukrainian people and hopes that the situation does not deteriorate and that no human lives are lost," Liberman said.


He noted that Israel expects the crisis to be resolved diplomatically and peacefully.


Liberman's statement was reportedly issued after the Obama administration pressured Israel to address the constantly-escalating crisis.


Diplomatic talks

In Paris, high-level diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine made little apparent headway Wednesday with Moscow and Washington at odds and Russia's foreign minister refusing to recognise his Ukrainian counterpart.


US Secretary of State John Kerry said discussions would continue in the coming days in an attempt to stabilize the crisis and he expected to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again in Rome on Thursday.


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"Don't assume that we did not have serious conversations which produced creative and appropriate ideas on how to resolve this, we have a number of ideas on the table," he said after talks with ministers from Ukraine, Russia, Britain and France.


"I don't think any of us had an anticipation that we were coming here at this moment, in this atmosphere of heightened tension and confrontation, that we were suddenly going to resolve that here, this afternoon," Kerry said.


Russia had earlier rebuffed Western demands that its forces that have seized control of Ukraine's Crimea region should return to their bases.


NATO, at a meeting in Brussels, announced it was cutting back on cooperation with Russia to try to pressure it into backing down on Ukraine and suspended planning for a joint mission linked to Syrian chemical weapons. The alliance said it would step up engagement with Ukraine's new leadership.


The European Union offered Ukraine's new pro-Western government 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in financial aid in the next couple of years provided Kiev reaches a deal with the International Monetary Fund. Germany, the EU's biggest economy, also promised bilateral financial help.


Ukraine's new finance minister, Oleksander Shlapak, caused a fall in the Ukrainian bond and currency markets by saying his economically shattered country may start talks with creditors on restructuring its foreign currency debt.


Cold War 

Russia and the West are locked in the most serious battle since the end of the Cold War for influence in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic with historic ties to Moscow that is a major commodities exporter and strategic link between East and West.


Ukraine pulled out of a trade deal with the EU under Russian pressure last year, sparking months of protests in Kiev and the February 22 ouster of Yanukovich, a Russian ally.


Ukraine says Russia has occupied Crimea, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based, provoking an international outcry and sharp falls in financial markets on Monday, though they have since stabilised.


Lavrov said discussions on Ukraine would continue, but he did not talk to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchitsya, whose new government is regarded as illegitimate by Moscow.


As he left the Foreign Ministry in Paris, Lavrov was asked if he had met his Ukrainian counterpart. "Who is that?" the Russian minister asked.


Deshchitsya said he believed a "positive outcome" would emerge. Asked why he had not met Lavrov, he shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows.


Later, US President Barack Obama spoke by phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and they expressed "grave concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty", the White House said.


International monitors 

The West is pushing for Russia to return troops to barracks, accept international monitors in Crimea and Ukraine and negotiate a solution to the crisis through a "contact group" probably under the auspices of a pan-European security body.


Britain said it would join other European Union countries in freezing the assets of 18 Ukrainians suspected of misappropriating state funds, and Canada announced economic sanctions on senior members of the government of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.


France said EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday could decide on sanctions against Russia if there is no "de-escalation" by then. Other EU countries, including Germany, are more reticent about sanctions.


President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's actions in Crimea, which used to be Russian territory, and said he would use force only as a last resort.


This eased market fears of a war after sharp falls on Monday, though Russian shares and the rouble slipped again on Wednesday, and Ukraine's hryvnia dropped against the dollar.


The Pentagon will more than double the number of US fighter jets on a NATO air patrol mission in the Baltics and do more training with Poland's air force as it strives to reassure allies alarmed by the crisis in Ukraine, officials in Washington said on Wednesday.


פרסום ראשון: 03.06.14, 00:35
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