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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Putin endangering the world, says UK foreign secretary 

Jeremy Hunt accuses Russia of undermining order that keeps the world safe

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, was accused of stoking international tensions (Bloomberg)
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, was accused of stoking international tensions (Bloomberg)

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt has called for further sanctions on Russia and accused President Vladimir Putin of making the “world a more dangerous place”.

In a speech to the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC on Tuesday, Mr Hunt accused Russia of repeatedly flouting established rules of international conduct and thus undermining world security. He also said the world needed to come together to halt the “malign influence of Iran.”

“[Russia’s] aggressive and malign behaviour undermines the international order that keeps us safe. Of course, we must engage with Moscow, but we must also be blunt: Russia’s foreign policy under President Putin has made the world a more dangerous place,” Mr Hunt said.

“The established rules of international conduct are repeatedly being flouted by major countries like Russia. Such aggressive and malign behaviour undermines the international order that keeps us safe,” he added.

Russian-UK relations have soured since a former Russian military officer and double agent was poisoned in the British town of Salisbury. British authorities have since accused Russia of being behind the attack – a claim denied by the Russians.

Despite this, Mr Hunt was clear where the UK government stood on these denials.

“Today the United Kingdom asks its allies to go further by calling on the European Union to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US. That means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea.”

Mr Putin was “testing” the world to see how united and strong it was, Mr Hunt added.

In 2014 Russia forces annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea amid widespread international condemnation. The break-up in relations has been complicated by US president Donald Trump’s seemingly pro-Russia stance and apparent public support for President Vladimir Putin.

He said that Russia’s incursion into Crimea was the first annexation by force on European territory since 1945. The foreign secretary also noted it was not the Kremlin's first step over another countries territory this century, citing Georgia in 2008.

Mr Hunt confirmed that the UK would continue to support a deal with Iran over its nuclear capabilities, in contrast to the US, which recently renewed sanctions on Tehran. As a result, Iran’s economy has taken a tumble but its regime has also threatened to ramp up its nuclear operations,

The foreign secretary accused Russia and the Syrian regime of ignoring international rules on chemical weapons and, as a result, hundreds had died.

Mr Hunt accused China of failing to criticise Russian actions in Crimea.

“Whilst China has been vocal in its support for some features of the existing system, particularly elements that enable it to trade freely with the world, it has been less supportive in other areas, refusing for example to oppose Russia’s annexation of Crimea, or to support measures to strengthen the international ban on chemical weapons,” he said.

Mr Hunt also reiterated a no-deal Brexit would be devastating for Europe.

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“One of the biggest threats to European unity would be a chaotic no-deal Brexit. The risk of a messy divorce, as opposed to the friendship we seek, would be a fissure in relations between European allies that would take a generation to heal - a geostrategic error for Europe at an extremely vulnerable time in our history,” he said.

“So, as I have been saying to European governments, now is the time for the European Commission to engage with an open mind with the fair and constructive proposals made by the Prime Minister.”

Mr Hunt is expected to meet with UN official, including its chief Antonio Guterres, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.