United States President Barack Obama said Thursday afternoon that his administration is prepared to take further action against Russia if an agreement reached earlier in the day in Geneva concerning the crisis in Ukraine fails to materialize.
Hours earlier, US Secretary of State said from Switzerland that American representatives had just met with officials from the European Union, Russia and Ukraine, and all parties agreed to work diplomatically with one another during the next few days to destabilize the conflict between the Moscow- and Kiev-based governments as tensions continue to worsen in the region.
Speaking from the White House that same afternoon, however, Pres. Obama expressed uncertainty over the Geneva agreement and said his administration will further sanction Russia if they don’t uphold their end of the bargain and “we don’t see actual improvement” as promised.
“I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” Obama told reporters with regards to what will come next of the crisis. “I think there is a possibility — a prospect — that diplomacy may deescalate the situation.”
Speaking of the newly-reached agreement, Pres. Obama said “There was a promising public statement that indicated the need to disarm all irregular forces and militias and groups that have been occupying buildings” in eastern and southern Ukraine.
“The Russians signed on to that statement, and the question now becomes, will in fact they use the influence that they exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election [and] move forward with the destabilization,” he asked, “…and start getting back on the path to growth and democracy.”
Pres. Obama also said that he plans to speak later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss possible sanctions to be waged against Russia if it fails to adhere to the agreements of the Geneva deal reached earlier that day, but reaffirmed that the US has taken the option of military force off of the table.
“We have to be prepared to potentially respond to what would continue to be efforts of interference from the Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine,” Obama said.
In the meantime, though, the president said he urges Russia to help “create an environment in which irregular forces disarm, that the seizing of buildings cease [and] that a national dialogue by Ukrainians — not by Russians, not by Americans or anyone else by Ukrainians — takes place.”
“My understanding is that the Ukrainian prime minister gave a detailed and thorough presentation about the reform they intend to introduce, including reforms that provide assurances for Ukrainians who live in eastern and southern Ukraine — that they will be fully represented, that their rights will be protected, that Russian speakers and Russian natives in Ukraine will have full protection of the law,” the president said..
The most important agreement reached during the talks, according
to Russian Prime Minister Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian
crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning
an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining
protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start
of true constitutional reform.”
“Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists after Thursday’s briefing.
According to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa said Thursday that Kiev is not bound by the recommendations reached during the Geneva deal, and added that “the troops in the East of the country are carrying out a special operation and can remain where they are.”
Sec. Kerry, meanwhile, said that thousands of Russian troops remained posted on the country’s border with Ukraine, though some have been withdrawn “in response to the efforts we’ve made to insist on some movement.”
Russia, Kerry said, “made it clear that over a period of time, assuming this can de-escalate, and it does de-escalate, as the rights of the people they are concerned about are represented, as the constitutional process unfolds and the future government of Ukraine takes place, they are absolutely prepared to begin to respond with respect to [withdrawing] troops in larger numbers.”
Both Obama and Kerry said they hope for the de-escalation efforts to become evident by early next week at the latest.