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Conflicts in Iraq and Ukraine will be the main theme of EU Foreign Ministers' meeting

Ministers are also to consider the question of relations with Russia, including possible new sanctions
Informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Athens on April 2014 EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI
Informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Athens on April 2014

LUXEMBOURG, June 23 /ITAR-TASS/. The conflicts in Iraq and Ukraine will be the main theme of a routine meeting of the European Union (EU) Foreign ministers' meeting which is held in Luxembourg on Monday. Within the context of the Ukrainian crisis, the Ministers are also to consider the question of relations with Russia, including possible new sanctions.

Russia, EU and sanctions

A source in European institutions has told Itar-Tass, "The Ministers will compare their estimates of Russia's latest actions in the context of the situation in Ukraine, including support, expressed by the President of the Russian Federation, for the ceasefire plan. On the strength of such analysis decisions are to be made about advisability of further sanctions with regard to the RF".

The source said no decisions on economic sanctions would be taken Monday. Discussion may refer only to a certain extension of the European stop list of Russian and Ukrainian natural persons, who will be banned from entering the EU until November, and whose accounts at European banks (if such are discovered) are subject to a freeze. A number of Eastern European countries insist on such measures on the strength of assertions that Russia "gives support" to federalization backers in eastern Ukraine.

"As far as economic sanctions are concerned, this question may be decided only at top level at an EU summit. If such necessity arises, the theme may be raised by EU Heads of State and Government at a meeting in Brussels on June 26-27," the European diplomat pointed out.

Meeting with Ukraine's new Foreign Minister

Pavel Klimkin, Ukraine's just-appointed Foreign Minister, has been also invited to Luxembourg. It is expected that he will acquaint his European counterparts in detail with the peace plan of Pyotr Poroshenko, set out the situation in the country according to Kiev's point of view, and articulate new requests for European assistance, including the holding of an international donor conference in Ukraine in July.

The EU Ministers are also to "compare notes" ahead of the signing of the economic segment of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. The segment is to be signed in Brussels on June 27 on the sidelines of the EU summit.

Police mission for Ukraine

The Ministers will review preparations for dispatch of an EU police mission to Ukraine in mid-July.

"The mission will be aimed at assisting Ukraine in effecting a judicial reform and reforming the system of internal affairs," the source emphasized. He said that in this respect an EU police mission would resemble a civil police mission for Kosovo (EULex). It is expected to be about 300-strong.

EU strategy for non-recognition of Crimea's accession to Russia

The EU Council will also start discussing a European strategy for non-recognition of Crimea's accession to Russia. The Strategy is intended to limit to the utmost the rights of the residents of the region in all relationships with Europe and reduce European business contacts with the Peninsula to the minimum.

"The issue concerning attitude to Crimea is a no easy dilemma. The EU does not recognize Crimea's accession to Russia and continues to regard it as part of Ukraine's territory. However, it may cannot allow the visa privileges intended for Ukraine (the privileges which do not differ so far from those currently granted to Russia - Note by Itar-Tass) to be also applied to Crimea's residents who are de-facto Russian citizens; or to apply the free trade principle, set forth in the Association Agreement with Ukraine, to commodities from Crimea," the source in European institutions told Itar-Tass.

In order to evade any difference in interpretation by EU countries of their attitude to Crimea, the community set about working out such a document to this effect. It will be prepared and endorsed stage-by-stage, with a trade-related segment being the first part of it. The trade segment is supposed to be adopted prior to the signing of the economic segment of the Association Agreement, thereby removing the need to change the text of the Agreement proper so that it would conform to the new geopolitical conditions.

"The EU will allow only those Crimean commodities, which will bear marking of Ukrainian certification, to enter its market," the source stressed.

The EU "does not plan to introduce a full ban on commodities from Crimea". They will not simply get trade preferences under a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Brussels and Kiev".

The official explained, "If those commodities bear no Ukrainian marking, lack a certificate of quality, documents on conformity to veterinary and phytosanitary norms, they will not be able to be entitled to trade preferences provided for by the FTA between the EU and Ukraine"

Incidentally, when an Itar-Tass correspondent asked an official of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade which commodities from Crimea are supplied to the EU, he found it difficult to answer. "Fruit, possibly, and, maybe, marine products," was the answer.

Within the framework of the strategy, the EU also intends to recognize only Ukrainian passports and visas for the residents of Crimea. "If the EU has not recognized Crimea's accession to Russia, we may not recognize the region's authorities either. Therefore, whether this is applied to certification of goods and services or passports and visas those must be documents issued by the Ukrainian side. This is the same practice which the EU applied to Abkhazia and South Ossetia after 2008," the source said.

Another war

Although Monday's meeting was to be devoted entirely to the conflict in Ukraine, yet another war has changed the plans of European Ministers. At present, they are to examine the situation in Iraq where militants of an Islamist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who only quite recently enjoyed the patronage of the West as part of the Syrian opposition, have now seized a considerable part of Northern Iraq, including the country's three large cities Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit.

The situation is being aggravated by the fact that the militants do not encounter a particular resistance on the part of the Iraqi military. Two Iraqi divisions (30,000-strong), who have been trained by American instructors and who received American weapons, have simply abandoned their positions, leaving behind all their armament.

The European Union now can do little as far as Iraq is concerned. Sanctions against the terrorist organization are impossible to apply, and not only the Europeans but also the Americans are not ready for a new military operation in Iraq. Only political declarations or promises of an additional financial aid to Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki can be resorted. Iraq is unlikely to expect a large-scope assistance from the EU. The Europeans lack money and the efficiency of financial assistance to Iraq, the assistance on which the US has already spent more than a trillion of US dollars over the past decade, proved low.