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Monday May 20, 2024

Blinken suggests role for diplomacy on Ukraine borders

Blinken has repeatedly said that war will need to end with diplomacy but has dismissed the near-term prospects for talks

By AFP
March 24, 2023
Antony J. Blinken, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 19, 2021. — AFP
Antony J. Blinken, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 19, 2021. — AFP

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday suggested a role for diplomacy in determining Ukraine's future borders, while reaffirming that any peace decisions were for Kyiv to make.

Blinken has repeatedly said that the war will need to end with diplomacy but has dismissed the near-term prospects for talks, believing Russia is not serious, and focused on aiding Ukraine's military to repel the invasion.

Appearing before Congress, Blinken appeared to accept that Ukrainian forces would not be able to win back all of the territory in their sights.

"I think there's going to be territory in Ukraine that the Ukrainians are determined to fight for on the ground; there may be territory that they decide that they'll have to try to get back in other ways," Blinken said.

He was responding to a question from Republican Representative Chris Stewart who asked if the United States backed President Volodymyr Zelensky in seeking to take back Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Moscow in 2014.

"My great fear is not a recognition that Crimea is different than the eastern Donbas region," Stewart said, referring to the area of heavy fighting in the invasion.

"If our commitment and our agreement with Mr Zelensky is we will support you whatever you want to achieve, including no Russian presence at all in Crimea, then we're asking for a world of hurt," he said.

Blinken stressed that "these have to be Ukrainian decisions about what they want their future to be and how that lands in terms of the sovereignty, the territorial integrity the independence of the country."

"What we don't want, for everyone's interests, is to have this settle in a place and in a way that simply invites the Russians to reset, rearm and then re-attack," he said.

The United States and its European allies all have refused to recognise Moscow's annexation of Crimea, where Russia held a 2014 referendum not accepted by Kyiv or the West.

Speaking at the Davos forum in January, Zelensky said Ukraine aimed to take back Crimea which he called "our land." Moscow has refused to include Crimea, where Russian speakers form a majority, in possible peace talks.