Crimean Parliament pushes for independence
Crimean Parliament pushes for independence
That could offer a way of de-escalating the standoff between Russia and the West.
The vote in Crimea’s Parliament about Sunday’s referendum could give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia.
The dispute between Moscow and the West over Crimea is one of the most severe geopolitical crises in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russian forces have secured control over the peninsula, but Ukraine’s government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and strongly warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.
The Crimean Parliament’s declaration could put the bid to join Russia on hold, depending on the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bargaining with the West.
In Sunday’s referendum, the public will be given two options: Becoming part of Russia, or remaining in Ukraine with broader powers.
Crimea, where Russia maintains its Black Sea Fleet base, became the epicenter of tensions in Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych fled last month in the wake of months of protests and outbreaks of bloodshed.
Kiev-based political analyst Vadim Karasyov said the Crimean Parliament’s move is “a message to the West that there is no talk about Russia incorporating Crimea.” He said “It’s a tranquilizer for everybody — for the West and for many in Ukraine who are panicking.”
Karasyov speculated that Crimea could exist as a “quasi-legitimate” state, while Russia and the West negotiate.
After a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, some leaders in Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia lobbied to join Russia, but their request was never granted.
Putin’s “task now is to get a stake in the shareholding company called Ukraine. He believes that the West now has the majority stake and he doesn’t even have a blocking package,” Karasyov told the AP. “So Crimea is an attempt to get a blocking package.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry later said in a statement that the Crimean Parliament’s action was legitimate. “Russia will respect the results of Crimea’s referendum that will be monitored by OSCE observers,” the ministry said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by telephone Tuesday at Washington’s initiative.
“From the Russian side, the necessity was underlined of taking into complete account the interests of all Ukrainians and all regions in the search for an exit from the crisis and also the respect of the right of the residents of Crimea to determine their fate on their own in accordance with the norms of international law,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament, rejected proposals to draft new legislation to facilitate Crimea’s accession into Russia.
Zheleznyak wouldn’t elaborate, and it wasn’t clear whether his statement signaled the Kremlin’s willingness to relax tensions or was part of legal maneuvering over the annexation plans.
If Putin can’t negotiate a solution to the crisis with the West, the Crimean Parliament’s move could also facilitate accession into Russia. Under current law, Russia needs to reach agreement with a foreign state to incorporate part of it. Crimea’s declaration of independence could solve that, though the West made it clear it would not recognize the annexation.
In a sign that some members of Putin’s entourage would prefer a negotiated solution to an all-out confrontation with the West, Konstantin Remchukov, the well-connected publisher and editor of the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, spoke strongly against annexing Crimea.
Remchukov, who avoids criticizing Putin, said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the move will trigger painful Western sanctions and cripple the Russian economy.
Remchukov said he believes Russia could negotiate a deal that would have the West guarantee the rights of Russian speakers and ensure its Black Sea Fleet’s continuing presence in Crimea. Russia could promise concessions on the Syrian and Iranian crises in response to the Western willingness to respect Russian interests in Ukraine, Remchukov suggested.
Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China
- Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values
- Against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle
TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “constrain” China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island’s giant neighbor as a global threat to democracy.
Her comments in an exclusive interview with AFP on Monday come as Taiwan faces what Tsai called “immense pressure” from Beijing.
She urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values.
“This is not just Taiwan’s challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it’s Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China’s influence,” Tsai said.
“Their democracy, freedom, and freedom to do business will one day be affected by China,” Tsai added.
“We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”
Her comments come after a sustained period of aggression from China toward Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of mainland territory, to be reunified by force if necessary.
Self-ruling Taiwan is a democracy and sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
An increasingly hardline President Xi Jinping has made it clear that what he sees as threats to China’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence.
Since she took office in 2016, Beijing has ramped up military drills near the island and has successfully pressured some major international companies to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
It has also exerted diplomatic pressure by ensuring Taiwan is excluded from major international forums and wooing away some of its few remaining official allies.
Tsai said China should “be aware of their own responsibility” in the region and “engage in conversation with Taiwan.”
Countries both around the region and further afield have expressed concern over China building military facilities on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also been seeking to extend its power with its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to connect the world’s second-largest economy with Africa, Asia and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
But despite escalating tensions, Tsai said she would still “be willing” to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“Of course, I hope that during my term as president, there is a chance for both sides to sit down and talk,” Tsai said.
She added she would meet Xi on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions, a position she has long taken.
However, Beijing insists Tsai must agree that Taiwan is part of “one China” in order for any meeting to take place, which she has refused to do.
Tsai said the recent summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “provided a lot to think about.”
“Their two countries are very far apart in terms of cultural values and other aspects, as well as the positions they hold,” said Tsai.
“But they were able to sit down and talk on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect in Singapore. I think this was a positive development for the international community.
“It is also an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another.”
With its number of official allies dwindling to 18 as Beijing lures them away, Taiwan is now trying to forge new friendships.
Its most powerful ally is the United States, which is its major arms supplier even though it does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island.
Tsai said Taiwan had seen growing support from the United States, where Congress recently passed bills paving the way for higher level official visits, and recommending greater US-Taiwan military exchanges. The US State Department also approved a preliminary license for sensitive submarine technology, riling Beijing.
The warming relationship comes as Taiwan tries to boost its homegrown defense force.
“In the face of China’s threats, we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities,” she said.
Tsai said Taiwan is looking to bolster ties with “like-minded” countries.
But against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle.
“Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated, but the Taiwanese people do not have the option of giving up,” she said.