Koenders and Lavrov discuss Nemtsov, Ukraine and Syria in Geneva

Foreign minister Bert Koenders met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva today. Mr Koenders firstly expressed his shock at the murder of Boris Nemtsov, describing it as ‘a disgusting execution to which the only possible response is repudiation’. Mr Lavrov repeated the words of President Vladimir Putin, that those responsible must be held to account. He condemned the act and stressed the importance of a thorough investigation and universal condemnation. Mr Koenders has decided to send Dirk Jan Kop, the Netherlands’ Special Representative for Europe and the Eastern Partnership, to Moscow this evening, in order to attend Mr Nemtsov’s funeral tomorrow.

Mr Koenders noted that, while he welcomes the Minsk agreement signed by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, he still sees the situation in eastern Ukraine as a cause for concern. ‘Commitments are only being partly met,’ he remarked. He called on the international community, including Russia, to do its utmost to promote compliance with the agreement, starting with a comprehensive ceasefire and withdrawal of all heavy weapons. He also highlighted the importance of ensuring humanitarian access and supplies, and the implementation of the agreement’s political provisions. The Netherlands is prepared to contribute to this through the OSCE and other channels. The ministers also discussed the ongoing investigation into the MH17 air disaster, with Mr Koenders stressing that ‘the investigation is being carried with the greatest possible care and accuracy’.

The ministers concluded their meeting with a detailed discussion of the situation in Syria, including the importance of regional diplomacy and of supporting local ceasefire initiatives, especially those of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. The ministers plan to continue this discussion at a later date.