VALLETTA (Reuters) – Helping to arm Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russia is the swiftest path to achieving peace, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in an article published on Sunday.
Cleverly was writing in a Maltese newspaper ahead of a visit on Tuesday to the Mediterranean island, which assumed the presidency of the U.N. Security Council at the start of February.
“Like all authoritarian rulers, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin responds only to strength in his opponents,” Cleverly wrote in the Times of Malta.
He added that he was delighted that Germany and the United States had joined Britain in agreeing to send tanks to Ukraine.
“Giving the Ukrainians the tools they need to finish the job is the swiftest — indeed the only –- path to peace,” he wrote.
The war in Ukraine is expected to dominate the talks between Britain and Malta, a European Union member.
The island has sought to help Ukraine by enforcing EU sanctions and providing humanitarian assistance including medicines and power generators. A small number of Ukrainian soldiers are also being treated in Maltese hospitals.
Other subjects likely to come up during Cleverly’s visit include Britain’s relations with the EU, relations with North African countries, particularly Libya, and migration.
Britain and Malta, a former British colony, have traditionally enjoyed close ties, with the British assisting Malta in areas such as the training of military officers, the provision of specialised healthcare, and education. Britain is the biggest source of tourism to Malta and one of its major trading partners.
However, the CEO of the Malta Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises said last week that Brexit had been “a horrendous experience for Maltese businesses”.
“As a result of Brexit, the ways of doing business had to change, and even for UK brands in Malta, things are not as comfortable as they used to be,” Abigail Mamo told local media.
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Keith Weir and Frances Kerry)