In an exclusive interview, Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, told EURACTIV about her country’s new initiative to keep the international community attention’s focused on the occupation of Crimea by Russia.
Dzhaparova, a journalist by profession of Crimean Tatar origin and a fluent English speaker, was recently appointed as First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The ‘Crimean Platform’ is part of Ukraine’s strategy of de-occupation of Crimea which started since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in the spring of 2014, she told EURACTIV on 28 October, the day of her first visit to Brussels.
The Crimean platform is expected to work on several levels. The first is the highest political level, which will be joined by foreign heads of states. The second is the level of foreign ministers and defence ministers. The third is the inter-parliamentary level. And the fourth is the level of experts.
The biggest highlight of the initiative is a “Crimean Summit” to be held in Kyiv. Tentative dates are under the discussion, including 21 May 2021. Dzaparova said a number of countries had expressed interest in attending the platform and the summit, mentioning Turkey, the US and the Baltic States.
To the difference of Eastern Ukraine, which is in the focus of international attention thanks to the so-called Normandy format bringing together France, Germany and Russia, there was no such platform covering Crimea.
“For us it’s crucial to invent a new instrument to get Crimea back,” she said, expressing the hope that the EU would support the initiative. Further, she explained that there was little awareness in the West about what Russia was doing on the peninsula, its militarisation, the crackdown on freedoms and “keeping 2.5 millions of Ukrainians as hostages”. At least have a million of Russians have been brought to the peninsula, she said.
On the occasion of her first meeting at the European Commission the same day, she highlighted the initiative to Luc Devigne, director for Russia and eastern European countries at the European External Action Service.
EU countries are divided in their approach to Russian relations. While Eastern countries like Poland have adopted a anti-Russian stance, other countries like Greece, Italy and France maintain good relations with Moscow.
Asked what was the initial reaction in the EU capitals, Dzaparova said consultations with individual member countries had not yet started. She admitted, however, that “some countries focus on their own interest” when it comes to relations with Russia but expressed the view that on the issue of the annexation of Crimea, the position of all EU countries was “solid”.
“For us, it is not crucial to have all European countries on board, attending Kyiv, for us, the most important is to start launching the format. All big things start small. So let’s start”, Dzaparova said.
“We don’t have the illusion that tens of countries will join the summit, but for us it’s crucial to launch it,” she added.
The Ukrainian diplomat said that Kyiv was also planning to invite Russia to the table.
“If they come, we will be happy, we will ask all the questions we have, because Russia is responsible with the situation of human rights violations in Crimea. It would be good to discuss how Russia could de-occupy Crimea. Miracles happen, and if they start demonstrating a civilized position, we are ready to discuss that,” she said.
(Edited by Frédéric Simon)