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Published on March 4, 2014
Press briefing by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council

Brussels, March 3, 2014

THE MINISTER – What’s striking first of all is the diagnosis by my foreign minister colleagues, who fear this may be the most serious crisis for more than 20 years. So what emerged was a feeling of very great gravity.

We decided to be firm. It was decided that the European members of the G8 – France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom – will immediately suspend preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi. Secondly, unless there are extremely swift and concrete de-escalation measures by the Russians, a whole series of contacts will be broken off, with specific decisions to suspend talks on visas and on the economic agreement.
Because there will be a European Council meeting, no doubt on Thursday, those decisions will be applied if there’s no de-escalation. That’s the firmness aspect.

At the same time, we’d like dialogue to be started, which means the Russians engaging in it. On the Ukrainian side, we agreed to call for minorities to be taken into account. The general approach – unanimous, which is very important – is one of firmness and, insofar as it’s still possible, a desire for dialogue. But it’s a feeling of very great gravity and great concern.

Q. – It would seem there was an agreement between Mrs Merkel and Mr Putin on dialogue in the OSCE framework; is that still on the agenda?

THE MINISTER – It hasn’t been confirmed by the Russians.

Q. – What de-escalation measures specifically?

THE MINISTER – The first specific de-escalation measure is the withdrawal of Russian troops and the agreement to talk. That’s not the tone we’re hearing now. During our discussions we were receiving some very worrying information.

Q. – Has the European summit on Thursday been confirmed?

THE MINISTER – That’s a rumour that is gaining increasing strength, and it’s a decision that will be taken by Mr Herman Van Rompuy with, we hope, the participation of the foreign ministers.

Q. – Does it mean we’re giving the Russians an ultimatum of two days to withdraw their troops?

THE MINISTER – Some measures have already been taken and others are envisaged, and there’s a desire for a very swift de-escalation. If there’s a European summit, it could indeed serve as a deadline in this way./.

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