‘Bring Russia to negotiating table’
German min wants EU united front with aim to reduce tensions
BERLIN, April 16, (RTRS): German Europe Minister Michael Roth called for the European Union to adopt a united front against Russia with the aim of reducing tensions, warning that “anti-Russian reflexes” were as dangerous as naivete about Russia’s “nationalist” course.
Roth’s intervention, in an article for Die Welt newspaper, came amid signs that under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat (SPD) Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Germany’s position towards Russia is hardening, especially since a poison attack in Britain, widely blamed on Russia.
Roth, in remarks that seemed designed to reflect the more pro-Russian views of the SPD’s members, said Europe’s sanctions against Russia should be maintained, but with the aim of bringing Russia to the negotiating table.
“Sanctions aren’t a goal in themselves,” he wrote. “They should encourage people back to the negotiating table to work on reasonable solutions ... Anti-Russian reflexes are just as dangerous as naively relativising the nationalist-tinged policies of the Russian leadership.”
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday criticised Russia for a series of activities beyond its borders, blaming it for a cyber attack on his own ministry, and said Moscow must change its ways.
Maas listed a series of what he called problematic actions that also included the lack of progress in implementing a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, a poison gas attack in Britain, support for the Syrian government, and efforts to influence Western elections.
“We had an attack on the Foreign Ministry where we have to assume that it stemmed from Russia,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF. “We can’t just wish all that away ... And I think it’s not only reasonable but necessary to point out that we do not view those as constructive contributions.”
cations” after a Greek flag was hoisted on a disputed, uninhabited islet in the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that the Turkish coast guards had removed the flag from the island off the coast of the Aegean resort of Didim.
Yildirim said the incident was similar
German government officials in February disclosed what they called an “isolated” cyber attack on the government computer network that was first discovered in December.
The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency last week said there was “a high likelihood” that Moscow was behind the attack.
Maas, a Social Democrat who has adopted a tougher stance on Russia than his predecessors from the same party, told the other German public broadcaster, ARD, on Sunday that Moscow had been an increasingly “difficult partner” but Berlin was committed to maintaining dialogue, particularly on the crisis in Syria.
“It is time, I think, to point out that we expect constructive contributions from the Russian side, including on the Syrian conflict. And also that they don’t always simply protect (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad,” he said.
Russia has denied any efforts to influence Western elections, and scoffed at suggestions it was behind the cyber attack in Germany. It also denied involvement in a poison gas attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain.
Western air strikes aimed at destroying Syria’s chemical weapons facilities have exacerbated tensions between Moscow and the West, already at a new post-Cold War high after the expulsion of more than 130 Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
Syria denied using chemical weapons against its civilian population.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, another Social Democrat, who has served as foreign minister, on Sunday warned against demonising Russia and said Germany had a particular role to play in maintaining dialogue with Moscow, given its history.
Steinmeier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper he was concerned about a
to one in 1996 when the two NATO allies went to war over uninhabited islets known as Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish which both Turkey and Greece claim.
“Our advice to Greece would be to stay away from provocations and agitations,” Yildirim said adding that Turkey was “determined to give the necessary response” to “galloping alienation between Russia and the West” and urged German politicians to avoid portraying Russia and its people as an enemy.
Maas on Saturday called for a new international effort to end the war in Syria, and said Germany would use its relationship with Moscow to ensure Russia played a “constructive” role.
“Whether we like it or not, the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved without Russia,” he said on Sunday.
Germany, which relies on Russia for about a third of the gas it uses, has long walked a careful line with Moscow -- pushing for continued sanctions over Ukraine and eastern Ukraine while also maintaining dialogue and trade relations.
New US sanctions against Moscow will be hard for Russia but do more damage to the United States and Europe, RIA news agency cited a senior Russian lawmaker as saying on Sunday.
US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier on Sunday that Washington was preparing new sanctions against Russia over its support for Syrian President Basharal Assad.
Evgeny Serebrennikov, deputy head of the defence committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Moscow was ready for the new penalties.
“They are hard for us, but will do more damage to the USA and Europe,” RIA quoted Serebrennikov as saying.
Russia will not delay adopting legislation in response to new US sanctions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday, RIA news agency reported.
Senior members of the lower house of parliament have said they are considering legislation to give the Kremlin powers to ban or restrict a list of US imports. Ryabkov said Moscow was discussing what he called Washington’s abuse of the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency.
Despite two decades of efforts to improve relations, Greece and Turkey have seen a spike in tensions in recent weeks over disputed Aegean boundaries as well as over oil-and-gas drilling rights off the divided island of Cyprus. (AP)
Armenians protest ex-leader’s move:
Several thousand protesters staged rallies on Monday in the Armenian capital against former president Serzh Sarkisian as he moves to maintain a chokehold on power as prime minister.
Demonstrators marched through the centre of the capital Yerevan and blocked streets in opposition to a change of government that will see Sarkisian maintain huge influence under a new parliamentary system of government.
Some protesters chanted “Armenia without Serzh” and “Serzh is a liar.”
“Our goal right now is to prevent Serzh Sarkisian from becoming the country’s leader for a third time without violence and the use of force,” said opposition leader Nikol Pashinian who led the protesters.
Sarkisian, 63, ended his second and final presidential term last week.
On Monday, the ruling Republican Party and the government-friendly Dashnaktsutyun Party formally nominated Sarkisian as candidate for the post of prime minister despite the protests. The pro-Moscow politician is expected to be elected by parliament on Tuesday. The protesters took to the streets after opposition leader Pashinian called on Armenians to stage rallies to prevent Sarkisian’s political transition. (AFP)