Courtesy of Agence France Presse
November 20, 2015
PALANGA, Lithuania: The three Baltic states Friday said they would not join any Western coalition fighting ISIS if it included their Soviet-era master Russia because of its role in the Ukraine conflict.
French President Francois Hollande had called this week for a broad anti-ISIS coalition in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, which killed 129 people and were claimed by ISIS.
Thursday Russia said it would be ready to work with such a coalition – on the condition that its members respect Syria’s sovereignty – a prospect that does not please the presidents of Baltic EU members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“Lithuania will not take part in any new coalition in which Russia will participate or would like to participate. To this day Russia is occupying the territory of one country and committing acts of war in two countries, Ukraine and Georgia,” President Dalia Grybauskaite said in the western resort town of Palanga after meeting with her Baltic counterparts.
Tensions between the small NATO members and neighboring Russia have surged since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia rebels and the government.
Under Moscow’s thumb until 1991, the three Baltic states have been spooked by Russia’s activity in the region and concerned about its territorial ambitions.
“We have to think seriously about any coalition that would involve an aggressor like our neighbor,” Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told reporters.
Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis the situation in the EU and around it southern borders “should not take our attention from Ukraine.
“It is our common task to keep the issue of Ukraine high on EU agenda until the full resolution of the Minsk agreement,” referring to the ceasefire agreement signed in February.
The Latvian foreign ministry added in a statement that “the fight against terrorists and resolving the conflict in Syria should not be at the expense of Ukraine”.
Though they recognize that many of the refugees arriving in Europe are fleeing conflicts, the Baltic presidents also stand united against welcoming any more migrants before the EU takes action to better secure its external borders.
“To talk about something more is too early before what was agreed is fulfilled,” said Grybauskaite referring to the border plans.