PM in talks over Russia response


Published: Sunday 16th November 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron is joining other EU leaders in talks with US President Barack Obama to discuss a co-ordinated Western response to continued Russian destabilisation of Ukraine.

Tensions over Ukraine have dominated a summit of the G20 group of leading economies in Australia, where Vladimir Putin received a frosty reception from fellow world leaders.

The Kremlin has denied reports that the Russian president was aiming to to duck out of the Brisbane summit early and miss the official lunch that winds up the two-day gathering.

In a 50-minute one-on-one exchange which Downing Street described as “robust” last night, Mr Cameron warned Mr Putin he was facing a “fork in the road” in his relations with the rest of the world.

Russia must choose between patching up relations with the international community by observing the terms of September’s Minsk peace agreement or risking further sanctions if it continues to destabilise Ukraine, said the Prime Minister.

The international community suspects Russia of continuing to send troops and weapons over the border into areas of eastern Ukraine held by separatist rebels – something which Mr Putin denied.

Mr Obama said Moscow’s “aggression against Ukraine” was “a threat to the world”.

And Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper had a blunt message as he met the Russian president: “I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”

Mr Putin has stoked tension in Brisbane by deploying four Russian warships to the Coral Sea off Australia’s eastern seaboard.

Mr Cameron dismissed the move as no more than a display of “international machismo”, but the summit’s host, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, described it as part of a “regrettable pattern” of Russian military assertiveness apparently designed to evoke the “lost glories” of the Soviet Union.

Mr Cameron and other EU leaders – Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Francois Hollande, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and Mariano Rajoy of Spain – will hold a meeting with Mr Obama on the fringe of the summit, at which future policy towards Russia will top the agenda.

Tomorrrow, EU foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels to discuss possible further sanctions, thought likely to target individuals responsible for disputed elections in two eastern enclaves of Ukraine which produced majorities for pro-independence rebels.

The EU imposed sanctions on members of Mr Putin’s inner circle following the annexation of Crimea in March, and has since ratcheted the measures up to target broad sectors of the Russian economy – something which Mr Cameron said had impacted on the value of the rouble and the Moscow stock market, as well as the ability of Russian banks to access finance.

The Prime Minister last night said that the situation in Ukraine was “heading at the moment in the wrong direction” and made clear that further co-ordinated sanctions could be expected from the EU and US if there was no change in Moscow’s approach.

Mr Cameron said: ”Up to now Europe and America have moved in pretty good tandem in terms of taking tough measures towards Russia.

”If Russia were to further destabilise Ukraine, if further steps were to be taken, they should expect Europe and America to respond in turn with further steps. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if that were to be the case that would be the result.”

Asked if he felt he could trust the Russian president, the Prime Minister replied: ”I take people as I find them. The sad thing is that to date undertakings given in the Minsk agreement have not been followed but the right thing to do is to continue to engage.

”So far we haven’t seen his actions follow up the statements that he’s given on previous occasions.

”The point is – and the reason for meeting is – that this issue matters and it’s very important Russia understands what’s at stake and gets a very clear message.

”There’s a real choice here, there’s a different and better way for Russia to behave that could lead to an easing of relations, but at the moment he’s not taking that path.”

Official proceedings at the summit were focusing on the world economy and energy, with leaders expected to announce progress on plans agreed by G20 finance ministers in February to boost global growth by 2% in five years.

Mr Abbott has faced domestic criticism for pursuing a narrowly economic agenda in Australia’s year-long presidency of the organisation, excluding issues like climate change from formal discussions in Brisbane.

Published: Sunday 16th November 2014 by The News Editor

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