Ljubljana – The Foreign Ministry’s strategic council held its maiden session on Friday to discuss the Ukraine war. After an almost three-hour debate, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said that despite some differences in views, all members agreed the war should end ASAP. She also revealed she would meet her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in July.
The new 15-member council comprising former politicians, professors and business representatives also invited to today’s meeting the authors of the two letters addressed to the government regarding Slovenia’s stance on the war in Ukraine.
While the first letter signed by 18 academics and politicians at the beginning of the month argued that providing arms to Ukraine only prolonged the conflict, the second, a cross-partisan appeal that followed, said peace in Ukraine could be achieved only through decisive support for Ukraine’s defence, not with a format of talks that led to the Minsk Agreements.
According to Fajon, everyone at today’s meeting primarily agreed that “we all want the war in Ukraine to end, that we want this to be achieved in a peaceful manner, through a culture of peace, a policy of cultural dialogue to which we are also bound by the constitution”.
Only a rapid end to the war can mitigate the energy price hikes, food crisis and security risks, which is crucial for Slovenia as well, she said.
A key message was that Slovenia and the EU must remain united in their responses to the Ukraine crisis. Thus, it will be easier to deal with the consequences of this war, the minister said.
“Here, Slovenia will – of course next to all the condemnations of the Russian aggression in Ukraine we have made – respect all international commitments, international law, which means that within international organisations – the EU and NATO – we will also participate in the adoption of sanctions as we have done in the past.”
Fajon asserted Slovenia would continue to help Ukraine “wherever possible”. “When we talked about aid to Ukraine, we agreed that Slovenia would, of course, continue to provide humanitarian and development aid, as well as military assistance, but we do not have any large capacities there.”
She also highlighted the possibility of assisting Ukraine in demining, caring for the wounded and helping it on its path towards EU membership. Talks with Ukraine on this are already underway.
“They have expressed great interest and I think we’ll be able to define in more detail some of these ideas during our visit planned in July,” said the foreign minister, revealing the tentative date of her announced visit to her counterpart Kuleba in Kyiv.
Asked by the press about further military assistance to Ukraine, she acknowledged that the authorities in Kyiv always emphasised the need for weapons, but added that all such discussions were taking place in the EU and NATO framework.
Fajon believes “we should also look for as many diplomatic opportunities and channels as possible to talk to Moscow in order to reach a compromise and peace”. “These voices are certainly present and legitimate here,” she said.
According to the minister, initiatives for Slovenia as a small country to connect “with our sister countries”, which advocate strengthening diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis, are also “understandable and legitimate”.
Fajon repeatedly underlined that Slovenia “will always remain a supporter of peace” and will “work towards ensuring peace in our neighbourhood”.
Both the minister and two other participants of today’s debate at the Foreign Ministry said they were very happy that the ministry had managed to attract civil society to the talks, and people with different opinions. “Thus we have shown … that virtually any opinion is allowed without any label, and I think that this debate was really welcome,” the minister pointed out.
Journalist Dejan Steinbuch said the meeting was a sign that this government was clearly keeping its word when it comes to promises of greater inclusion of civil society. He described the debate itself as “extremely constructive”, with “different nuances”, but “there were no differences around the key dilemmas”.
Uroš Svete, director of the Government Information Security Office, made a similar point. He added that one of the common denominators today was the view that more should be done on “scenarios for the solution of this war”. In his view, “in a sense we have resigned ourselves to the fate of operating on the battlefield”, but every war ultimately ends with an agreement at the table, none has yet been fought on the battlefield alone, he said.