x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A diplomatic solution to Ukraine will help restore peace and order

A diplomatic solution to the impasse over Russia's annexation of Crimea is the best solution, says Dominic Jermey, Britain's ambassador to the UAE

With the political crisis in Ukraine intensifying over the past month, the world’s attention has been focused on Crimea, a peninsula that is roughly a third of the size of the UAE and is almost completely surrounded by the Black Sea.

The Crimean parliament is being occupied by Russian soldiers. Voting in secret and not allowing opposition MPs in, it made a decision on March 6 to hold a referendum giving 10 days’ notice to allow voters to decide whether the region in the south-east of Ukraine should join Russia. This, in the words of the UK foreign secretary, is “a mockery of proper democratic practice”.

The terms of the Ukrainian constitution are clear – a referendum can only be convened at the request of three million citizens and must include all of Ukraine. Any objective observer would further question the legitimacy of such a referendum, conducted without any proper campaigns or public debate, in a region that is occupied by thousands of foreign troops, and where the political leadership of Ukraine is prevented from visiting the Crimean Peninsula.

Some argue that Crimea would have voted to join Russia even without the measures that make an open and free choice completely impossible, but a poll last month showed that only 41 per cent of people in Crimea wanted to join Russia. But with Russian troops occupying the country, free debate is impossible and we may never know the truth.

The UK, along with the vast majority of the international community, does not recognise the sham referendum, its outcome or the treaty signed by Russian and Crimean leaders that resulted in Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

We have lobbied hard to ensure that EU foreign ministers adopted measures that send a strong signal to Russia that this challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is unacceptable and will bring serious economic and political consequences.

As is the case anywhere in the world, when political clashes take place, it is often the common people who suffer the most. In this region, we don’t have to look very far to be reminded on a daily basis of the unspeakable suffering of the Syrian people.

The message sent by Russia through its actions in Ukraine is that it is unwilling to recognise the important role the international community must play in maintaining – not undermining – peace, order and stability.

As I look at the political crisis in Ukraine, I cannot help but conclude that long-term stability in any part of the world depends on citizens’ consent and participation, and respect for sovereign territorial integrity.

The UK and the UAE provide their citizens with some of the best opportunities and services. The UK’s democratic principles and well-established institutions, and the UAE’s traditional ways of engaging society in decision-making through the majlis enable open engagement with their respective citizenry. In the end it is this participation that helps create societies that are stable and prosperous.

I firmly believe that all people should have their voices heard so they can help shape their political futures. If history is written by the victors, then let the story of the current political crisis engulfing Ukraine be resolved through diplomacy and guided by adherence to the norms and laws of the international system.

Dominic Jermey is the British ambassador to the United Arab Emirates