Borrell: views on Ukraine conflict shift

Brussels 11.07.2022 The G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali opened to Josep Borrell the different perspectives around the world on the situation in Ukraine and its consequences, the The European Union top diplomat said, pointing at the evolution of views on the conflict.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this Resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” he concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell underlined.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass Republics. The U.S., the EU, the UK and a number of NATO allies retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” the EU diplomat concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell continued.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov. The Russian foreign minister held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a special military operation in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass republics. The US, the EU, the UK and a number of other countries retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

EU condemns Navalny imprisonment extension

Brussels 23.03.2022 “The European Union strongly condemns the ruling by Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court, to extend the imprisonment of the Russian opposition politician Mr Alexei Navalny by an additional 9 years. We also deeply regret that the court hearings were conducted in a de facto closed setting, inaccessible for observers in the penal colony outside Moscow, where Alexei Navalny is already serving another politically motivated sentence, which opens space for the fabrication of charges and lack of exercise of defence rights by the accused. This is the starkest indication that the Russian legal system continues to be instrumentalised against Mr Navalny” reads the Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell. on behalf of the EU on the ruling to extend Alexei Navalny’s politically motivated imprisonment by an additional nine years.

“The European Union deplores the systematic crackdown on civil society, independent media, individual journalists and human rights defenders in Russia. This internal repression is accelerating amid Russia’s ongoing military aggression against its sovereign neighbour Ukraine.

“The Russian Government continues to blatantly ignore all international obligations and commitments for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release. We call on the Russian authorities to comply with the interim measure granted by the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the nature and extent of risk to Mr Navalny’s life”.

Borrell regrets Ukraine NATO membership promise

Strasbourg 13.03.2022 Anna van Densky The West made a mistake by promising Ukraine NATO membership, the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said in an interview with LCI TV channel, France.

“There are moments in which we could have reacted better. For example, we proposed things that we could not guarantee, in particular Ukraine’s accession to NATO. This was never realised. I think it was a mistake to make promises that we could not fulfil,” the diplomat explained.

The head of European diplomacy also admitted that the West had made mistakes when building relations with Russia. “Thus, we lost the opportunity to bring Russia closer to the West in order to deter it,” Borrell continued.

Interviewed in Versailles just before the opening of the Summit of the 27, Josep Borrell said he believed that “Russia is bombarding indiscriminately”. According to him, “Mariupol is undoubtedly a war crime, but it’s not just that hospital. Russia is incapable of taking the cities, the Ukrainian resistance is very strong, so it is doing as it did in Syria or Chechnya, it bombs. The Russian army is an artillery army. So it bombs, it bombs, indiscriminately, sometimes a hospital, sometimes a pavement of a house.”

On February 24 President Vladimir Putin announced a special Russian military operation in response to a request for help from the heads of the Donbass self-proclaimed Republics. The head of state has pointed out that Moscow had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories, but aims to “de-militarise and de-nazify” the neighbour. Later he added that one of Moscow’s key demands was that Ukraine remain neutral, and rejected plans to join NATO. As Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin had earlier confirmed, it is critical for Russia because it is the “minimum territorial barrier” the country needs to preserve the existing security system.

Hagia Sophia: Turkey move towards Sultanate

Anna van Densky OPINION Today visit of the European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell to Ankara would be also highly emblematic, demonstrating the capacity of the bloc to stand for the European values, namely the human rights and freedom of religion. The wish of the President Erdogan to transform the emblematic Byzantine temple into mosque, caused vivid concerns of 300 million of Orthodox believers across the world, who consider their rights to be violated in case the building to be converted to a place of worship.

City of Istanbul Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) monument has rich, centuries long history, but nowadays it has also an immense political significance for both the East and the West, symbolising the crossroads of two civilisations. The situation of cultrual balance has changed recently, when an association started pursuing the cancellation of the 1935 decision that transformed the emblematic temple into a museum, and demanded the re-establishing of the Muslim cult, and group prayers. Not without sympathy of the President Erdogan himself, who said it is an internal issue, and any expression of an opinion from outside would be considered as attack on Turkey “sovereignty“.

A court decision is expected within fortnight mid-July.

The former Orthodox Byzantine cathedral, later converted to mosque is at the center of a modern dispute between Turkey’s secular Ataturk heritage, and President Erdogan attempts to include religion into basement of his autocratic rule. The argument that surfaced at court in reality reflects the entire process in Turkish society, representing two Turkeys, one looking inwards, and the other outwards. The opportunity to pray in the UNESCO World Heritage monument is more that an argument between a possibility to convert a museum into mosque, it is a historic battle between secularism and striving for the EU membership urban part of Turkish society from one hand, and from the other hand religious conservatism, shifting the country further and further away from the European values.

The Council of State – the highest legal authority – listened to arguments of lawyers for the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment on July 2, the group claiming for the Hagia Sophia to be transformed to mosque.

If the court decides in the NGO’s favor, it will impose the entire transformation of the historic building of Byzantine times, which has been a symbol of the city’s status as a meeting point between the East and the West, and the Muslim and the Christian worlds.

Constructed as a temple, after it was completed in 537 the Hagia Sophia was immediately central to early Christianity and its vast cathedral dome was admired by generations as a marvel. In 1453, when the Ottomans conquered the city previously known as Constantinople, it became a mosque by force. However 500 years later it was converted into a museum soon after the choice of the Turkish society for of modern and secular state was made.

Constructed as a Byzantine architectural masterpiece, Hagia Sophia was completed in 537. Today, it is one of the world’s most popular attractions, and UNESCO World Heritage, with millions visiting every year, the magnet of the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. At present there is no clarity on how this monument would function in case transformed into place of Muslim worship.

Lately hardline President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made Islam an integral part of his political agenda, has set his sights on the building. In a campaign speech ahead of local elections last year, he said it had been a “very big mistake” to turn it into a museum.

However Hagia Sophia’s mixture of religion belongings made it so symbolic for Turkey, predominantly Muslim, but founded in the early 20th century on secular ideas of separating religion and state.

Erdogan, and the Turkish association in the court case, certainly have many supporters, especially in the country-side.

Some experts presumed that the there should be shields, covering Byzantine Christian mosaics which are not compatible with the Islam cult. The other big issue is the building maintenance, and monitoring of the artefacts by specialists. In case it becomes the worship place, the jurisdiction would change, creating uncertainty for the restauration specialists examining the site to ensure its conversation.

However there is little doubt what the Court decision will be, after last month announcement President Erdogan made, while meeting ruling party officials:

“Allah willing, after the decision by the council state, we will pray in the Hagia Sophia”.

The European Commission, the guarding of the treaties, and the counterpart of Ankara in accession talks considers that the monument should be regarded as UNESCO World Heritage, the emblematic place for tolerance and dialogue.