“We expect the Forum to become a regular event. We decided to hold it annually as a session of the Yalta International Economic Forum. The session will be called ‘Friends of Crimea Forum,’” said Yaroslav Ivanchenko, Director of the State autonomous institute “Business and cultural centre of the Republic of Crimea,” a member of the YIEF Foundation board, and a member of the YIEF Organizing Committee.
The first Friends of Crimea Forum and the annual international conference “Crimea in Today’s International Context” were held in Yalta on November 5–7; they brought together 90 international participants from more than 30 countries. The Forum was attended by eminent politicians, ministers, MPs, leaders of the countries’ ruling political parties, members of regional executive authorities, and prominent public figures. The Forum’s principal result was the establishment of the standing “Friends of Crimea” International Association.
Mr. Ivanchenko expressed his confidence that these events will “increase the number of friends of Crimea around the world many times over.” “When all the conference participants go back to their home countries, they will be conveying the truth about our conference, about the current situation in Crimea, about the region’s development, and about the friendliness of Crimea’s people,” Mr. Ivanchenko said in Simferopol at the press conference dedicated to the results of Friends of Crimea Forum.
John Bonar, a Forum participant, Executive Director to Yes-to-Business Ltd (UK) and co-chair of Westminster Russia Forum, a UK business organization, said that he intends to convey information about Crimea to the British political circles. “We will hold business meeting with British MPs, members of all parties, we will convey to them the truth about the situation in Crimea that they cannot receive from British media,” Mr. Bonar said.
Mr. Ivanchenko noted that Friends of Crimea Clubs, branches of the “Friends of Crimea” International Association, would be opened in various countries.
“Many countries have expressed their wish to establish Friends of Crimea Clubs. In some countries, work is already underway, they will work and they will form parts of the ‘Friends of Crimea’ International Association,” Mr. Ivanchenko said.
Yan Epshtein, Deputy Chair of the Black Sea Association for International Cooperation, stressed that a Friends of Crimea Club is already open in Germany. “I think such clubs will also appear in other countries,” Mr. Epshtein noted.
The “Friends of Crimea” International Association is a public association intended to use grassroots diplomacy to restore constructive cooperation between Russia and the West and to establish comprehensive cross-border ties with the participation of the Republic of Crimea. The “Friends of Crimea” International Association was spearheaded by the French financier and investor Jean-Pierre Thomas. At the 3rd Yalta International Economic Forum (YIEF) in April 2017, M. Thomas proposed the establishing a standing association of foreign politicians and public figures supporting Crimea as part of Russia and advocating lifting the sanctions.
Politicians, public figures, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals joined the Association. The first working meeting of the “Friends of Crimea” International Association’s members will be held as a session of the 4th YIEF to be held on April 19–21, 2018.