Diplomacy is the only way out of the deadlock in Crimea, officials say.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 24/03/14
The wives of Ukrainian soldiers hold a banner reading "No War" during a rally outside the Sevastopol tactical military brigade base in Sevastopol. [AFP]
The European Union and non-member countries in the region are supporting diplomatic efforts to put an end to the Ukrainian crisis and ensure a peaceful settlement of what many say is the worst impasse since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Despite the government's steps to strengthen national defence, Kiev renewed calls for a diplomatic solution. Officials in the region also agree that diplomacy has to be the sole means to solve the Ukrainian crisis.
"Dialogue has a determinant role in settling this deadlock; neither armed forces nor other forms of pressure should be involved," Laszlo Borbely, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies in Romania's parliament, told SETimes. "I am not a big fan of sanctions, but EU had to send Russia a clear signal so it forces it to sit at the negotiation table."
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents that formally annexed the Crimea Peninsula to Russia, despite objections from Ukraine and western states.
Ukraine officials, meanwhile, formally signed a political association agreement with the European Union -- the same document that President Viktor Yanukovych rejected, triggering Kiev's original political crisis that led to widespread protests. Yanukovych fled Ukraine rather than face charges for the deaths of demonstrators and has taken refuge in Russia.
As part of the diplomatic efforts to tackle the standoff in Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) dispatched a team of observers from different countries, including Romania, Turkey and Albania. Moscow continues to reject the observers in Crimea.
"On behalf of the OSCE, I express readiness to mediate in the dialogue for the sake of peace and stability," said the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ranko Krivokapic. "Ukraine is currently at historical turning point. In any case, political change and development of the country in any way must not threaten its territorial integrity."
Albert Rakipi, executive director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), told SETimes that Albania's participation with two observers in the OSCE mission is a demonstration of the country's positive will and support for all the Western policies regarding Ukraine.
"This is part of a more active concept in the foreign policy," Rakipi said.
Diplomats and other high-ranking officials have been visiting Kiev to discuss the situation in Crimea.
Moldova's Prime Minister Iurie Leanca voiced "a message of support and solidarity with Ukraine on the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity," while visiting Kiev last week. He had discussions with Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Verkhovna Rada (parliament) Speaker, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, MPs Vitali Klitschko and Petro Poroshenko, according to Moldova's government website.
Romania's Minister of Foreign Affairs Titus Corlatean also met with Turchynov, Yatsenyuk and his counterpart Andriy Deshchytsya in Kiev last week. The two sides signed a deal to enhance trust and security between Romania and Ukraine which mostly regulates organisation of military drills in the areas close to the common border.
While visiting Kiev, Corlatean also met the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland, and Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to discuss peaceful solutions of the crisis.
Earlier, Greece Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and Bulgaria's Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Vigenin visited Kiev to urge self-restraint, calmness and dialogue within international law between Ukraine and Russia.
Macedonia is also looking at Ukraine with concern, officials in Skopje said.
"Macedonia calls for taking all necessary measures for immediate calming of tensions and the need to establish political dialogue on all issues facing the citizens of Ukraine, and whose resolution is necessary by involvement of all sides. Macedonia calls for restraint and responsibility in these critical times for Ukraine," said Macedonia's foreign ministry statement to SETimes.
Former Macedonian Ambassador in London, Risto Nikovski, said the events in Ukraine call for a firm global reaction.
"This is a European and world event," Nikovski told SETimes. "This is a serious change and serious earthquake. What happens there, Macedonia and other countries in the region should condemn, because there it is a fight for territory and dominant influence. Here we have violation of the norms of international behaviour by interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine."
Correspondents Miki Trajkovski in Skopje and Linda Karadaku in Tirana contributed to this report.
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