MUNICH, February 02, 20:40 /ITAR-TASS/. The next, 51st Munich Security Conference will be held on February 6-8, 2015, well-known German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the forum’s organizing committee, said Sunday while summing up the meeting that ended today in the Bavarian capital.
Ischinger recalled that the Munich event took first place in an international rating of conferences and seminars compiled by the University of Pennsylvania. He said earlier that more than 200 bilateral meetings had been held on the sidelines of the forum.
This year’s conference focused on peaceful settlement in Syria, where fighting between troops loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebels has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions since the conflict started in 2011, the situation in Ukraine hit by mass anti-government protests since Kiev refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union in November 2013 in favor of closer ties with Russia, and Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
The 50th conference gathered some 20 heads of state and government, more than 50 foreign and defense ministers, representatives of business and scientific circles and human rights organizations across the world. Russia was represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Speakers included United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, joint United Nations and Arab League special Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The German government was represented by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
A discussion of ways out of the current political crisis in Ukraine on Saturday was a major topic on the agenda. The debates involved acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and UDAR opposition party leader Vitali Klitschko.
The opposing sides’ opinions differed. Kozhara said the authorities “fulfilled the key demands of the opposition” and stressed the importance of Kiev’s strategic partnership with Moscow. Meanwhile, Klitschko said the opposition forces would keep increasing their pressure on the authorities. He also praised his meetings with Western politicians.
Anti-government protests have been ongoing in Ukraine since the country refused to sign an association agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius in November 2013 and decided to seek closer relations with Russia instead.
A second wave of demonstrations occurred in Ukraine after parliament passed a set of laws toughening punishment for public order violations on January 16. Protesters stormed and seized government buildings. Three protesters are believed to have been killed. The Interior Ministry says up to 200 policemen have been injured. The laws were later repealed.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov has resigned saying his move could create additional opportunities for a peaceful resolution of the current crisis in his country.
The Ukrainian authorities also decided to pardon participants of mass protests and adopted the law on amnesty, which envisions a pardon for all people who took part in riots during mass anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine except for those who committed grave crimes, on condition that protesters vacate state and local power institutions they seized in Kiev and other regions of the country within 15 days.
The law adoption was preceded by lengthy and heated debates in parliament. Despite the pledge by the author of the law, Yury Miroshnichenko, President Viktor Yanukovich’s envoy to the Ukrainian parliament, that the law did not ban peaceful protests, opposition leaders reacted defiantly and with skepticism to the new legislation.
A discussion with participation of ex-German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and ex-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger took place Saturday. Both politicians were present in 1963 at the first “meeting of defense department representatives” - the way the Munich Security Conference was referred to at the time.
The forum was founded in 1962 by German publisher Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin. Politicians and military figures from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as businessmen have taken part in it since 1999.