On 17 March, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs took part in the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, at which ministers agreed on support for Ukraine and further international involvement in resolving the crisis and approved sanctions against Ukrainian and Russian officials responsible for the crisis.
In the discussions Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs indicated that he recognised as illegal "the referendum" on joining Russia held in Crimea on 16 March. All possible international mechanisms must be applied for the regulation of the crisis, and Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, the minister accentuated.
Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed satisfaction that the approved assistance package to Ukraine, which mainly envisages short-term and medium-term support for the stabilisation of Ukraine's financial and economic situation, would be rapidly implemented. At the same time, the Ukrainian government should carry out relevant reforms. It is also important that the political provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be signed in the near future.
As the Council discussed further steps to be taken by the EU's, Minister Rinkēvičs urged to consider how the EU's relations with Russia would be built in future and to devise a common EU information strategy in fighting Russian propaganda. The ministers shared the opinion that the work on further EU actions, including sanctions, should be continued by the EU heads of state and government at the meeting of the European Council on 20-21 March taking into account the current developments. At the same time Minister Rinkēvičs expressed support for visa restrictions. The minister also supported asset freezes against Russian officials and other persons whose actions threaten Ukraine's territorial integrity or independence.
Furthermore, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs supported the deployment of an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine that would ensure the presence of the international community in the country.
The Foreign Affairs Council also took stock of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Preparations for the fourth EU-Africa summit was reviewed including the situation in the Central African Republic. The current developments in Syria and the region were also discussed. Next, ministers exchanged opinions on EU's future plans regarding an unprecedented assistance package in light of the EU Council conclusions of 16 December 2013 on the Middle East Peace Process. Other topics debated by foreign ministers were energy diplomacy and the significance of energy policy in the context of Ukrainian crisis.