NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed support for sending international observers to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
He said in Brussels on Thursday after meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk that the only way forward was a political solution and that NATO supported international efforts aimed at finding this way through the sending of international observers and a peaceful dialogue. Rasmussen reiterated the alliance's support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and the fundamental principles of international law. He said that the crisis in Ukraine "presents serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole." He added that the crisis was the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War. Rasmussen also noted that the alliance intended to step up its partnership cooperation through the NATO-Ukraine Commission to support democratic reforms. This will include bolstering ties with Ukraine's political and military leadership, strengthening efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military and more joint training and exercises, he said. At the same time, he commended the people of Ukraine for their determination and courage and for the restraint shown by the Ukrainian armed forces, and reiterated that a political solution was the only way out of the crisis. In this regard, Rasmussen urged Russia to fulfill its international obligations and halt the military escalation in Crimea. "We call on Russia to withdraw its forces to their bases, and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. There should be no attempt to draw new lines on the map of Europe in the 21st century," he said.