M. ARAUD – Today we had the fifth meeting of the Security Council in the last 10 days on Ukraine. Our meeting was largely dominated by the Crimean issue. Why? It is very simple. On one side, we believe a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is possible. Its basis is well known: national unity government in Kiev, OSCE monitors which could monitor the situation in Crimea, especially in the context of the so-called threats against the civilian population, and the organization of general elections. So we have the basis for an agreement.
We also have the will. We have had a lot of meetings and phone calls between President Putin and all the heads of state and government of Western countries.
But the problem is that the situation is still worsening by the day. The Russian army is reinforcing its presence in Crimea. The Russian army is now besieging and storming installations of the Ukrainian army. The Ukrainian channels are cut. And now we have this referendum actually organized by Russia. The head of the Crimean government got 4% at the elections last time there was a free election in Ukraine. And all the signals are sent from Moscow that Russia is ready to recognize the announced results of the referendum. This is very dangerous.
This meeting was a call to the Russians to avoid going down this road. It was a call on the Russian authorities to enter negotiations. If Crimea was to be annexed by Russia, it would be extremely serious and it would have a lot of consequences on international relations. Some of them were announced at the last European Council meeting. It was a call to the Russians to tell them we want to negotiate and to reach a political settlement. Please, do not worsen this crisis. Thank you.
Q – Mr Ambassador, the Russians have said that they are going to table new proposals to the Westerners. Have you got any ideas what these proposals are from today’s discussions?
M. ARAUD – It was the opposite. The Permanent Representative of Russia, during 80% of his statement, went back to what happened in Kiev according to him: fascists took power and the rest of the rhetoric. After that, he said that he considered the referendum to be logical, that it would be supported by the large majority of the Crimean people and that Russia will fulfill its historical responsibilities.
Q – You described this meeting as a call to the Russians but there is no indication that they are listening at the moment. Does the lure of diminishing returns kick in with the Security Council meetings? What is the point of calling more if the Russians are not listening?
M. ARAUD – I think you are right. The Russians are not showing any sign that they are listening to us, and not just to the Security Council but to all the heads of state and government. Maybe it was a useless meeting. But even if there is only a 1% chance that it might be useful, we have to keep on trying because we want to avoid the worst and we have the impression that we are sliding towards the worst case scenario.
Q – Among the countries like yourself – Ukraine’s allies – is there a sense that time is running out, considering the referendum is only six days from now ?
M. ARAUD – Of course, there is a sense of emergency among the members of the Council. If this referendum is held, there could be a sense of inner logic because of the action of the Duma and the favorable public opinion in Russia. Suddenly, we would face the situation of the annexation.
Q – Ambassador, do you expect the Council to hear from the interim President of Ukraine later this week ?
M. ARAUD – If the interim President of Ukraine expresses the will to come to the Council, we will strongly support his coming. We think it would be very useful to hear from him what the situation is like in Ukraine and the intentions of the Ukrainian government.
Q – Before the referendum ?
M. ARAUD – Yes, I think it would be good to hear him before the referendum. I believe he is travelling to Washington in the coming days. Thank you very much./.
¹M. Araud spoke in English.