MINSK – The presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, as well as high representatives of the European Union met in the capital of Belarus for multilateral and bilateral talks on Aug. 26 seeking solutions to the ongoing months-long bloody conflict in the east of Ukraine and, more broadly, a mutually acceptable accommodation for that country’s aspirations for stronger ties with Europe balanced against its extensive trade relations with its neighbours.
Talking about Kazakhstan’s position on the crisis in Ukraine, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called for all the parties involved to refrain from using force and instead to address the challenges through diplomatic channels.
President Nazarbayev supports peaceful initiatives aimed at the de-escalation of the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the Kazakh foreign ministry said.
Recently, the foreign ministry stated that Kazakhstan has been and is working towards normalisation of the relations between Russia, Ukraine and the West, and towards translating them into civilised internationally recognised frameworks. That is why in order to start a dialogue on the Ukrainian crisis, Kazakhstan has worked with other countries to organise on Aug. 26 the meeting of leaders of the three countries of the Customs Union, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk.
At the meeting in Minsk, Nazarbayev called for a truce in Ukraine.
“We are urging to immediately resolve the humanitarian catastrophe in the east of Ukraine. The task now is to ensure a large-scale humanitarian aid campaign to assist Ukraine’s people. The efforts should be supported by international organisations, including the Customs Union and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States],” he told other participants.
“Kazakhstan is ready to render all possible aid, including via the country’s Red Cross and Red Crescent. Among other things, the organisation could act as a neutral middleman when escorting humanitarian freights sent by other nations. There should be an unbiased international control system to ensure timely supplies of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. I would call the sides to declare a truce to facilitate the humanitarian aid campaign,” said the leader of Kazakhstan.
When speaking on the necessity of a peaceful settlement, Kazakhstan’s President urged the parties to give up on military solutions. “There should be a peaceful respite to save the lives of innocent women and children who have become hostages of the military conflict. We are calling on the sides to cease fire,” Nazarbayev said.
Among other things, President Nazarbayev stated it was important to stop reciprocal sanctions that have an adverse affect on common citizens and may trigger a new wave of the global financial crisis. Nazarbayev urged a return to constructive interaction and a gradual lifting of the sanctions.
“Not only Southeast Ukraine, but the entire Ukraine needs large-scale aid efforts from all of the international community. Not only Western countries, but also countries of the East should contribute to the effort. Such intensive efforts have a great importance to preventing an economic collapse in Ukraine. We should come up with an idea for an international fund to bolster Ukraine’s catastrophe, he said.
On Aug. 26, Poroshenko held bilateral meetings with Putin and Nazarbayev. His meeting with Putin reportedly lasted for two hours well into the late evening.
Poroshenko at the meeting with Nazarbayev expressed his belief that Ukrainian-Kazakh relations have great potential in many areas and thanked Nazarbayev for his support of Ukraine.
“I know your strong principled position. Thank you for your support and decisive action in the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Poroshenko said.
Kazakh political analyst Erlan Karin in an interview with one of the Kazakh information agencies, Tengrinews.kz, commented on the role of Minsk and Astana in the recent talks: “Astana and Minsk are trying to play the role of mediator. But here it must be said that Minsk has perhaps more intense contacts with Kiev. [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko was at the inauguration of Poroshenko recently and congratulated him on the occasion. … But Minsk is somewhat limited in its maneuvers, in the sense that Minsk cannot support this process already with their European counterparts because of their already damaged personal relationships. In this respect, Astana has greater room for maneuver because it is a reliable partner for Moscow, has contacts with Kiev and plus Astana can interact with their European counterparts. Astana has a wider range of tools in this regard. So, I think that the roles and tasks between Astana and Minsk are distributed correctly.”
Commenting on the results of meeting in an interview with Singapore’s Channel News Asia, Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov praised the very fact that it took place and stressed the importance of continuing dialogue among all parties concerned even as signs were showing of growing tensions and continued fighting in the east of Ukraine.
According to President Nazarbayev, similar meetings will continue, including the possibility of a meeting in Kazakhstan at the request of the EU.
“In any case, any talks are better than the war,” he said after the Minsk meetings.