Ukraine crisis divides international response

As the dawn of a new week breaks, the tensions surrounding the crisis in Ukraine appear to be showing no signs of abating, as arguably the worst conflict between the east and west since the cold war continues to rumble on.

US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian peer Sergei Lavrov held talks yesterday (March 30th) in a bid to reach some sort of agreement over the situation, following a phone conversation between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama. However, it would appear discussions proved futile, as the nations were unable to reach any sort of resolution.

The US politician outlined clearly to Mr Lavrov that no decision would be neither made nor accepted by the international community without the legitimate Ukrainian authorities involved at the round table, so to speak.

He also said the presence of Mr Putin’s troops all along the Ukranian border was a concerning reality, claiming it fostered an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, despite his adversary denying any plans that Russia would be invading. Reports suggest Mr Lavrov has been requested to pull back the troops.

Nevertheless, he did say that both sides of the dispute have recognised the need to meet a diplomatic solution, agreeing the current situation is far from sustainable. The hope is that Russia and Ukraine, with the US, can reach an agreement over numerous divisive issues, such as linguistic rights, the disarming of what are being called “irregular forces and provocateurs” and reform of the current constitution.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall appeared critical of the talks, suggesting the US was already very much bowing to the wishes of the Russians. For example, one issue that was up for discussion was the idea of federalising Ukraine, despite the fact this has been ruled out as an option by the government in Kiev. According to Ms Kendall, merely the fact the idea is being entertained is a positive as far as Mr Putin’s agenda is concerned.

As the political commentator explained, the list for Sunday’s debate contained “quite a lot on Russia’s wishlist”.

Divided international response

While the US sees its role in the situation primarily as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev, together with the European Union it has been imposing sanctions on Russia as a result of Mr Putin’s bullish actions in Crimea.

These have included the implementation of travel bans and the freezing of assets of the Russian president’s innermost circles, with the threat of further sanctions on the horizon if the Russians do not start to play diplomatic ball.

However, the situation has not only divided the east and the west. In Latin America, Costa Rica and Nicaragua appear to disagree regarding the UN’s actions, with 11 countries opposing a denunciation of the Crimean referendum.

Last week, the Tico Times reported how Costa Rica’s permanent representative to the United Nations Eduardo Ulibarri spoke out against the annexation of Crimea by Russia. After the UN General Assembly embraced a non-binding resolution declaring it illegitimate, the issue appeared to divide Costa Rica and Nicaragua, who are currently locked in their very own border conflict.

The two nations currently have a series of land and maritime border disputes at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Professor of international relations at Costa Rica’s National University Carlos Cascante told the newspaper that if the country had not supported the UN’s decision to reject the annexation, it would completely undermine everything it is currently fighting for in terms of territorial sovereignty.

While 58 countries abstained and more than 20 did not even cast a ballot, the ones who voted against the resolution denouncing the annexation alongside Nicaragua included Belarus, Cuba, Syria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Sudan, Bolivia, Armenia, Venezuela and – unsurprisingly – Russia.

Meanwhile, it was reported at the end of last week that China would not be taking sides in the conflict, disappointing western leaders who had hoped the backing of the world’s second largest economy might have helped to add to international pressure.

According to Reuters, President Xi Jinping told a news conference that China “does not have any private interests” in relation to the issue.

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