Syed Kamall: The Minsk agreement freezes the conflict

Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Syed Kamal said British lawmakers should decide for themselves how to act after the Brexit vote. [ECR/Flickr]

The Minsk agreement reached Thursday (12 February) between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany is a better step for solving the conflict in Eastern Ukraine than sending arms, says MEP Syed Kamall. 

Syed Kamall is the leader of the conservative ECR group in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview. He spoke to EURACTIV’s senior editor Georgi Gotev.

What do you think of the Minsk agreement?

If you look at the details, it is freezing the conflict. Even this is progress.

Can I translate your words to mean that the EU and Russia agreed to have one more frozen conflict between them?

Time will tell, but at the moment it looks like [the agreement] freezes the conflict. We hope for further talks, to resolve some of the unresolved issues, but even if it freezes it, it is better than fighting.

Was sending arms to Ukraine a good idea?

I think before you do something like sending arms, you need to think very carefully of the consequences. Although in the short term it might have been seen as helping the Ukrainian people, the downside to it might have been to escalate the conflict, because the Russians might react and say, ‘in that case, we will send arms to the separatists’. So I’m pleased that we have reached agreement. It’s better than sending arms.

The UK would have sent arms?

I really don’t know. The Americans were talking about sending arms, but no one is quite clear, and the detail was never there.

But the threat worked?

You cannot make an agreement unless there is willingness on both sides.,

Some say the Minsk agreement is the biggest success of European diplomacy. Do you agree?

Let’s wait and see, first if the guns fall silent on February 14-15. Let’s wait and see how long it lasts if that lasts, and what happens in the short term, and in the longer term.

Amending the Constitution of Ukraine by the end of the year is one of the points of the agreement, with the goal of giving more autonomy to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Do you see a problem there?

Let’s see how the people of Ukraine react, once the ceasefire is in place and there is more autonomy granted, and more rights for Russian speakers granted. It’s very well to have an agreement on paper. But you and I know that more important is how it will be implemented on the ground.

You are the leader of one of the largest groups in the European Parliament. What do you think the Parliament will do in the meantime, until December, when key decisions in implementing the Minsk agreement need to be taken?

My group has been very clear. I have many Polish members in my group who are strong defenders of Ukrainian territorial integrity, and are also concerned about the Russian threat of stirring Russian-speaking minorities in many central and east European countries. For us, it’s important that we have an agreement that preserves Ukraine’s integrity.

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