Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Baird and EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton Cautious on Ukraine Ceasefire

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Baird and EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton Cautious on Ukraine Ceasefire

Article excerpt

Baird, Ashton cautious on Ukraine ceasefire

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OTTAWA - Canada won't hesitate to level additional sanctions against Russia if the current fragile ceasefire with Ukraine does not hold, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday.

Baird continued to express skepticism over Russia's actions after talks with Catherine Ashton, his European Union counterpart.

Following their morning discussions, Baird and Ashton said Canada and Europe stand as one in opposing Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"In the face of unacceptable provocations in Ukraine, we continue to stand united in support of free, independent and democratic nations," they said in a joint statement.

Ashton's visit comes as a fragile ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine continues to hold, amid discussions in Brussels of possible additional EU sanctions against Russia in response to the clash between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"Obviously we want to see a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine," Baird told reporters as he stood beside Ashton at Foreign Affairs headquarters. "We remain deeply skeptical of the Russian Federation's willingness to have a major de-escalation in this crisis.

"Let's give a political solution a chance. Obviously if more provocation and more negative aspects emerge, we would advocate strongly for additional measures."

Ashton expressed guarded optimism, saying much would turn on a Monday evening consultation with on-the-ground observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

"We have to see the effects of the ceasefire, hour-by-hour," Ashton said.

"We all have to watch very carefully and be certain of what developments are taking place," she added. "I want to say very clearly that we want this ceasefire to be strong and solid."

Last month, Canada imposed a new round of sanctions and travel bans on several top Russian and Ukrainian politicians and groups with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin in co-ordination with the United States and the EU.

Russia retaliated with its own sanctions that mainly target Canadian pork exports, which federal government figures say amounted to $563 million in 2012. …

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