The joint visit of the Foreign Ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to Ukraine demonstrates a strong signal of its support, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes has said.
She said at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday that this is the first visit of the Benelux countries under the Belgian presidency, and it demonstrates how important it is for the three countries to be here, it sends a very strong signal showing their commitment, support and friendship to Ukraine.
Wilmes recalled that on Thursday she and her colleagues from Belgium and Luxembourg visited Donbas, where they met with the leadership of Luhansk region and the military.
She said that it is true that, as ministers, they read a lot of reports, meet with their colleagues, but this is not the same as being on the front lines, meeting with people who live there and have to defend the border. As she said, they were very happy to be there, on this side of the contact line, and she would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm their unwavering support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
The minister said that the second Minsk Agreements are the only sure way forward and must be implemented by all parties.
"And, as I said, dialogue is the way forward, because no one is interested in seeing the escalation of the situation in Donbas. The Benelux and EU countries are confident that dialogue paves the way for a solution and resolution of the conflict," Wilmes said.
She said that the Benelux countries welcomed the Ukrainian government's efforts to keep Crimea high on the international agenda.
She also expressed hope that Ukraine will join the Istanbul Convention.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Stef Blok thanked the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine for the opportunity to be in Ukraine and express full support for it.
Blok said at a press conference that he was very impressed. This was the first time when he could visit the contact line.
He also thanked the Ukrainian government for excellent cooperation in the investigation into the shooting down of an MH-17 aircraft in July 2014 over Donbas.
This is a tragedy that affected both our countries. It is important to keep it on the agenda and to achieve justice for the relatives of the victims, the minister said.
In turn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn pointed out that the Benelux countries continue to support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. He stated that the Benelux countries highly value the work of the OSCE SMM and that they are concerned about the continued restrictions on the freedom of movement of the monitoring mission.
We saw that there is political will to move in the right direction, he said.
The Luxembourg Foreign Minister also indicated that three countries are taking part in the COVAX initiative, and recalled that the EU spent EUR 2.5 billion on it.
This is a lot, but I think that this is still not enough, and we must accelerate this initiative for all countries, including your country, and we will continue to do this, the minister said.
Asselborn also pointed out the importance of Ukraine being a member of the Istanbul Convention.