EU recalls its ambassador to Moscow, says Russia “likely” to blame for Salisbury attack
Following a European Council meeting in Brussels, the EU has recalled its ambassador to Russia, after heads of state and government agreed it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for a never agent attack in the UK that left former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter in critical condition.
European leaders said they had no plausible alternative other than that Moscow was behind the incident, although the Kremlin has denied all responsibility. European Council President Donald Tusk said no further actions are expected to be taken by the EU, but that further diplomatic efforts could be expected in April, saying ”additional steps are expected as early as Monday on the national level”.
Europe’s withdrawal of its ambassador is seen as a major diplomatic win for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who stressed to her fellow EU colleagues that the attack was “an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom” amounting to “attempted murder using an illegal chemical weapon that we know Russia possesses”.
May also stressed to her counterparts that the European Union must strengthen its resilience against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, as well as with NATO.
The UK wants the European Union to bolster its capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cyber, strategic communication, and counter-intelligence, May added, saying, the EU member states are expected to coordinate their response to the Russian authorities.
Further serious actions would require a much stronger will by all EU Member States, a fact that Moscow knows will be a serious challenge for Europe. The Kremlin putting all its effort to seduce European leaders that are friendlier towards Russia. Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday for more than half an hour, after which Putin invited Tsipras to visit the Kremlin. The two touched on issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, with a particular emphasis on Turkey’s recent shift towards a more aggressive stance towards Greece and Cyprus.
Europe slams Turkey on Summit conclusions
The EU-28 called on Ankara to stop all illegal activity in the Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and the Aegean Sea after weeks of rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean after Turkey blocked ships entering Cyprus’s territorial waters and two Greek soldiers were arrested and have been held in detention in a Turkish after they inadvertently crossed the Greco-Turkish border.
“The European Council strongly condemns Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece,” the EU’s statement read.
Leaders of the bloc called on Turkey to immediately halt its provocative actions and respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and International Law. “In this context, Turkey’s obligation is to respect International Law and continue fostering good neighbourly relations with all EU Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus.”
Regarding the Greek soldiers, the European Council expressed its grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey and called for a swift resolution to the crisis. Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that the Council would remain engaged in monitoring the overall process.
The harder stance from the EU towards Turkey comes ahead of Monday’s Varna EU-Turkey Summit in Bulgaria, where EU leaders will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan.
“Certainly, a number of other complicated issues will be discussed in Varna, including developments in Turkey and its actions in Syria. We are still neighbours and we need to find a way to talk to each other openly and cooperate in areas of common interest,” said Tusk.
Monday’s EU-Turkey Summit in Varna will also give Erdoğan the chance to bring his host, Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, into his camp after Radev approved a Turkish request to have a personal meeting between himself and Erdoğan.
Radev will meet with Erdoğan during the forthcoming NATO Summit in July where they will discuss the development of cooperation and dialogue.
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