European leaders meet to settle regional crises and pressure Russia at Moldova summit

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BURBOAKA, MOLDOVA(AFP) -The European Political Community (EPC), made up of 27 EU member states and their 40 allies, excluding Russia and Belarus, has chosen Ukraine’s minor neighbour Moldova for its second summit.

Less than an hour’s drive from the Kremlin-backed breakaway territory of Moldova and not far from war-torn Ukraine, the organization aims to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Holding the summit on the outskirts of Chisinau is largely a demonstration of solidarity with Moldova in the face of Russia’s destabilization campaign and support for gaining EU membership.

It is also an opportunity for European countries, whether EU member states, the recently exited United Kingdom, or future candidates like Ukraine, to cooperate in regional crises.

And he said the allies should find a way to offer “tangible and credible security guarantees to Ukraine” while the eventual questions of EU and NATO membership are pending.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Snak, who left the European Union but remained in NATO, said “President Putin’s complete disregard for the sovereignty of other countries” showed the need for unity.

“We cannot tackle these problems without close cooperation between European governments and institutions,” he said.

NATO member Turkey’s newly-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not attend the meeting as he prepares for a formal inauguration in the country, diplomats said.

With up to 47 heads of state and government invited, not much time is allotted for general group discussions, but diplomats hope the side meetings will address real issues. 

President Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will call a meeting between rival Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. Yerevan and Baku have been at odds for decades over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territories, but both were invited to the EPC as Washington and Brussels pushed for a peace deal.

Another long-running conflict in Europe, the Serbian-Kosovo standoff, is also on the agenda, with leaders in Pristina and Belgrade under pressure to de-escalate.

“We also need to think about a larger Europe,” French President Emmanuel Macron, who first unveiled the EPC, told reporters in Bratislava on the eve of the summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived at the summit on Thursday morning, called for solidarity as well as progress on Ukraine’s parallel efforts to join NATO and the European Union.

The Moldova Summit will also take place at a time when NATO ministers, including US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken, are meeting to discuss the agenda for the alliance’s next summit.

The NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11 will discuss when and how Kiev will join the alliance and how much to formalize its pledge to Kyiv, but until then Meanwhile, Europe is keen to show support.

Macron has acknowledged that Ukrainian forces fighting Russian invaders in eastern and southern Ukraine are “defending Europe”.

Finally, for Moldova itself, the summit marks an important step on the road to the future of Europe from a former Soviet republic partially occupied by Russian “peacekeepers”.

The summit’s organizer, President Maia Sandu, wants formal EU accession negotiations to begin this year to save “our democracy” from Russian interference, as have Ukraine and Georgia.

On the eve of the summit, she received strong support from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who praised Moldova’s “great progress” in reforms demanded by the EU. “Moldova is in the heart of Europe.  And all of Europe is Moldova today and tomorrow,” von der Leyen said.