Statement by Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Geneva on 4 March 2014
Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement in Geneva on 4 March 2014 after holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon on the situation in Ukraine:
The situation in Ukraine remains as tense as ever. The mood is highly jittery and new rumours are spreading every hour, every day. The risk is thus all the greater that somebody might lose their nerve with the result that this political conflict could be followed by renewed bloodshed. It is thus all the more important for us to exhaust all, absolutely all, options to prevent Ukraine from sliding back into violence. That is why I am here in Geneva today and have spoken to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki moon. I am about to go into talks with the OSCE Chairperson in Office, President Didier Burkhalter of Switzerland.
Yesterday I spoke with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We had a difficult, long and serious conversation. We are not close enough to a solution. And so I cannot at present indicate that we are on course for an international process, for the creation of a contact group, a format in which Russia and Ukraine can talk to and negotiate with each other. We discussed the options and are not yet in agreement on the basis for such an international format. But it is worth our while to keep on talking.
We are under immense time pressure, on the one hand due to the developments in Ukraine and the mounting tensions, and on the other hand because of the European Council at which the European Heads of Government will meet on Thursday. We therefore have to make good use of the remaining one and a half days to explore whether an international contact group is a viable option, and if such a group could then help reduce tensions in Ukraine and generally de escalate the situation.
I hope that this morning’s news, that some of the troops amassed on the Russian side of the border have been called back, is true. It would at least be a small sign of a de escalation, but I have not yet had any official confirmation of it.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier commented on the subject of sanctions against Russia as follows:
We are pressed for time. I think that if, in the next day and a half, we do not make decisive progress towards reaching international agreement, for example on the formation of a contact group in which Russia is also willing to participate, then I would presume that the debate in the European Council will indeed lead to measures being adopted.
My talks convinced me that the Russian side is aware of the seriousness of the situation. The assurance that there will be no Russian attack on Ukraine’s territorial integrity I met with the response that any such assurance must also be visible on the ground and documented. Russia’s current actions do not yet provide support for such an assurance. In so far I would say that we are not yet on course for a solution, but in my opinion it is worth using the next day and a half – or it is our responsibility to use the next day and a half – to seek the solution which has so far eluded us.