The future of European security and of each individual European country will depend on how the European community copes with the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Ukraine's top diplomat said in the capital Kyiv on Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares – now paying his first visit to the ex-Soviet country – Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he is grateful to Spain for supporting the EU sanctions on Russia in connection with the 2014 occupation of Crimea and the aggression in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow and Kyiv have been locked in conflict since hostilities in the eastern Donbas region broke out in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Kuleba also thanked Albares for Spain's support to the Ukrainian people against what he called Russian aggression.
"Today the situation remains tense but controlled. Diplomacy continues to work to reduce tensions and today's meeting is a confirmation of this," he said, adding that it is important for everyone to realize that the current crisis is not just about threats to Ukraine's security, but protecting the "security architecture" of Europe.
During talks between the two top diplomats, special attention was paid to the current security situation, especially on the Ukrainian-Russian and Ukrainian-Belarusian borders, as well as to the occupied parts of the Eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea, said Kuleba.
'Readiness for tough actions'
"I'm convinced that the only effective strategy for overcoming the Russian security crisis and effectively deterring Moscow goes through the unity and principledness of Europe and readiness for tough actions," he stressed.
Telling how Ukraine invited its partners to develop a containment package last November, Kuleba said that during the following three months, a long and difficult period was left behind.
Besides security matters, the foreign ministers also held general substantive talks, discussed the entire agenda of bilateral Ukrainian-Spanish relations, and political dialogue, and outlined further prospects for the development of relations between the two countries, Kuleba added.
"We paid special attention to the further development of trade and investment in this context," Kuleba said, noting that there are many things that could be done together in the sectors of high technology, IT, renewable energy, and others.
"We want more political, commercial, and cultural relations between Ukraine and Spain," he said.
Kuleba went on to say that the "times of the greatest crises and challenges create at the same time the greatest opportunities," and stressed that Ukraine and Spain are ready to jointly implement it.
‘Ready’ for sanctions even if hoping to avoid them
Reiterating Spain’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Albares said his visit is part of diplomatic efforts to ensure “dialogue, de-escalation, relaxation and, if necessary, dissuasion.”
He said that several European countries “have agreed on a series of sanctioning measures that we would adopt quickly in the event of an aggression against Ukraine.”
“This is part of a scenario that we do not want,” he said, but added they are also preparing for it.
“I want to underline once again that this is not the situation we find ourselves in. These are sanctions that are dissuasive, not preventive,” Albares said. “Because our objective, and we believe that it is a feasible objective, is to find solutions that allow the security of all European states to be protected, safeguarding the principles on which international law is based, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and the prohibition of the use or threat of the use of force.”
'Europe isn’t preparing for war'
Saying that the positions of Spain and the EU on the matter are “clear,” Albares added they are working for a scenario in which any differences that may exist are resolved through dialogue, and for that a de-escalation is necessary.
“We believe that this is the time for diplomacy and not for opening scenarios and hypotheses that are not there,” he said.
“All efforts have to channel de-escalation and distension through dialogue so that Ukraine can live in peace within its borders and guarantee its sovereignty, and I don't see why that wouldn't be possible,” he continued.
“Nobody on this side of Europe is preparing for a war and therefore we do not have to give the impression that it is an inevitable scenario because it is not,” he said. “And today what is being privileged is the diplomatic route.”
Albares also said that he discussed Ukraine's future and ideas to develop political and economic cultural ties between two countries with his counterpart as diplomatic relations between the two nations hit their 30th anniversary this year.
In light of the Russian presence on the Ukrainian border, Spain has accelerated its deployment of warships to NATO missions in the Black Sea.
But Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles has said the country is not considering sending troops to Ukraine.
Recent tensions between Ukraine, Russia
Russia has amassed thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders, prompting fears it could be planning another military offensive against the former Soviet republic.
The US and its allies have warned of an imminent attack, and threatened Russia with "severe consequences."
Moscow, however, has denied it is preparing to invade Ukraine and said its troops are there for exercises.
Efforts by world leaders, including Turkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are ongoing to resolve the row peacefully. Turkiye has offered to host a peace summit between Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky.