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Ukraine crisis NATO talks: Swiss president wary of acting against Russia

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter (left) speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroschenko during a NATO summit at a golf course in Wales.

(Keystone)

Speaking at a summit of world leaders on the crisis in Ukraine, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has warned against isolating Russia, a move which he says “does not solve any problems”.

Switzerland is not a member of NATO, an intergovernmental military alliance, but Burkhalter heads the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) this year.

In his role as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis, Burkhalter added that Russian isolation “will create more problems in Europe and elsewhere”.

“A return to stability in Ukraine and in Europe can only be achieved by working with Russia, not against it,” he said in a speech before world leaders gathered in Wales to discuss NATO's strategy for addressing Russian incursion into Ukraine.

Burkhalter stressed the need to continue executing the OSCE’s roadmap to peace in the region, recalling the organisation’s priorities of working towards a cease fire and a political solution while encouraging dialogue between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

He also said the OSCE wants to broaden the work of its observer mission in eastern Ukraine, adjusting it to the development of the conflict. “In particular, specialists should be recruited” to increase the chances of achieving a cease fire and control borders, he added.

Currently, 233 OSCE observers are on the ground in Ukraine. In future, four unmanned drones and two on-the-ground control stations will be used to supplement the OSCE mission, according to Burkhalter, who called on the international community to lend its support and expertise.

Rapid response capability

Burkhalter, who also acts as Switzerland’s foreign minister, added that the growing rift between Russia and Ukraine is forcing Europe to re-think its security strategy. The OSCE, he said, is the ideal platform through which to do that.

On Friday, NATO leaders backed plans for positioning military force in eastern Europe  to establish a rapid response capability and deter Russia from provoking other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, in Belarus, peace talks among Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russian rebels began, and a fragile cease fire was agreed upon that puts an end to months of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Burkhalter welcomed the news of the cease fire and said the OSCE would do all it could to help maintain it.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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