TOLUCA, Mexico – President Obama interrupted his North American Summit visit to Mexico to say he hopes an announced truce in the Ukraine holds long enough to give the government and the opposition time to step back from violence and work on peace.
“If the truce is implemented it could provide space for the sides to resolve their disagreements peacefully and going forward we will continue to do whatever we can to support Ukrainians as they seek a peaceful solution and respond to the aspirations of the Ukrainians people for a strong unified democracy that is fully integrated in with the international community,” Obama said.
This came at the end of a day when the president warned that the United States was watching developments in Kiev closely, did not like what it was seeing and promised “consequences” if the violence did not stop.
“My hope is that this point a truce may hold,” Obama said. “The government is responsible to ensure that we shift toward some kind of unity government even if it is temporary …without the bloodshed, that all of us, I think strongly condemn.”
When asked what the role Russia is playing in the unrest in Kiev and the civil war in Syria, Obama said that there is not “any secret” that his political views differ from those of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but that there is not “a competition between the United States and Russia.”
“Our approach of the United States is not to see this as some cold war chess board in which we are in competition with Russia,” he said. “Our goal is for the people of Ukraine who are able to make decisions about themselves about their future.”
The president took the opportunity to comment on the continued unrest in Venezuela, which recently booted three American diplomats.
“Venezuela rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” he said. “So, along with our Organization of American States we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters that it’s detained and engage in real dialogue and all parties have an obligation to restrain violence and restore calm.”
The past week has seen hundreds of students in the capitol, Caracas, protesting their government.
As for the summit, the most concrete item decided was to expand the safe traveler program, allowing cleared travelers among the U.S., Canada and Mexico a more expedited path through customs.
And Obama once again used his pen, through an executive order to make it easier for companies to import and export by creating a “one stop shop…so companies can submit all their information in one place.”
On the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Canada continued to express its impatience with the process.
“There is a process that has gone through, and I know it has been extensive, at times I’m sure Steven (Harper) feels it too… but this is how we make these decisions,” Obama said. “We only have one planet- and I believe that ultimately we can promote economic development and growth…Keystone will proceed along the path that has already been set forth.”
Canadian Prime Minister Harper fired back saying while climate change is “a shared concern” the “State Department report was already pretty definitive on that.”
The State Department issued a report last month that concluded the pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, a key determination that Obama had been waiting for.