“Today, more and more people are realizing that double standards are unacceptable and are speaking out in favour of developing a meaningful dialogue between all members of the international community on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Consequently, I regard establishment of the International Association of Friends of Crimea as important. The creation of such organization fully reflects the positive changes in the global public opinion”, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, said in his welcome letter to the Forum participants.
“At the moment, we are establishing an international venue for people’s democracy. It will enable us to combine the efforts of high-profile politicians, public figures, businessmen and representatives of the media to achieve international recognition of Crimea as an integral part of Russia”, Sergey Aksyonov, Head of the Republic of Crimea, said at the Friends of Crimea Forum.
“Several months ago, in Yalta, we decided to establish the Friends of Crimea International Association. Today I am glad to see here people from 30 countries ready to join this organization”, Jean-Pierre Thomas, French financial expert and investor, former advisor to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, highlighted in his speech. “There is no doubt that the referendum (on Crimea joining Russia held in 2014 – editor’s note) was legitimate and corresponded to the right of people for self-determination and UN principles”, Mr. Thomas said. “Coming to Crimea, we see development, we see major projects launched every year, including construction of the bridge to be completed next year, construction of the airport in Simferopol to be finished in a few months. This demonstrates that Crimea is gradually becoming part of a global economic development process.”
Meetings of the International Association of Friends of Crimea will take place regularly on the sidelines of Yalta International Economic Forum. “The Association intends to carry on its work on a regular basis as part of Yalta International Economic Forum and thus support multifaceted cooperation with Russia and Crimea, advocating that all the anti-Russia sanctions be lifted, as they complicate the situation in the world, and the economic and humanitarian blockade of the Crimean Peninsula be ended”, the declaration on the establishment of Friends of Crimea International Association states.
The first working meeting of the Association will take place in the breakout session format during IV YIEF on 19–21 April 2018. “We hope that the Friends of Crimea Forum will continue as part of the Yalta Forum”, Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov stated.
International Association of Friends of Crimea is a non-governmental organization aimed at using people’s democracy methods for restoring meaningful cooperation between Russia and the West and establishing comprehensive cross-border connections with the participation of the Republic of Crimea.
The organization’s aims include:
- recognition of the 2014 Crimea referendum’s legitimacy and the right of the Crimean people to self-determination;
- elimination of the Crimea issue from the political agenda in modern international relations, preventing it being used for imposing confrontational relations between countries and peoples;
- bringing unbiased information concerning life in Crimea and the grounds for the historical choice the Crimeans made in March 2014 to the notice of the international community.
The Association consists of politicians, public figures, businessmen and intellectuals. In particular, its members include: Thierry Mariani, member of the French National Assembly, former Minister of Transport; Hans-Jörg Jenewein, Member of the Austrian Federal Assembly; Hazwan Al Waz, Minister of Education of the Syrian Arab Republic; Aik Babukhanyan, Member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia; Detlef Zimmer, Vice Mayor of Linz (Austria); Stefano Valdegamberi, Member of Veneto Regional Parliament (Italy); Matthew Gordon Banks, Director of International Centre for Strategic Research in Oxford, former MP (UK); Avigdor Eskin, public figure and political writer (Israel), Mitsuhiro Kimuro, leader of the Issuikai party, and many others.
The Friends of Crimea Forum has brought together more than 90 delegates from over 30 countries: Austria, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Greece, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Bulgaria, China, India, the USA, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Ukraine, Armenia, and others. Prominent political figures, ministers, members of parliaments, senior officials of ruling political parties of their respective countries, representatives of regional executive bodies and well-known political figures have taken part in the Forum.
“As friends of Russia and, consequently, Crimea, we would like to facilitate the strengthening of relations between our countries, which, despite certain current difficulties, have always been historic and strategic partners. This is why we call for lifting the international sanctions that impact unfairly on the people of Crimea”, stated Nicolas Bay, General Secretary of the French political party National Front and Co-Chairman of the Europe of Nations and Freedom political group in the European Parliament, in his address to the Friends of Crimea Forum participants.
“I would like to express my support for the establishment of the Friends of Crimea International Association. Let’s use this opportunity and expand the circle of friendship, with Crimea at its centre”, Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister of Japan emphasized in his address dedicated to the establishment of the Friends of Crimea Association.
The Friends of Crimea International Association was created on the initiative of French financial expert and investor Jean-Pierre Thomas. During the 3rd Yalta International Economic Forum in April 2017, Mr. Thomas proposed establishing an association of foreign politicians and public figures supporting the Russian status of Crimea and advocating the lifting of sanctions.