U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attends a joint press conference with European Council President Donald Tusk (not in the picture) in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 20, 2017. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday reaffirmed "strong commitments" to the European Union (EU), in a bid to allay the bloc's doubts on the new U.S. administration's stance towards it. (Xinhua/Gong Bing)
BRUSSELS, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday reaffirmed "strong commitment" to the European Union (EU), in a bid to allay the bloc's doubts on the new U.S. administration's stance towards it.
"Today it is my privilege to be on behalf of President (Donald) Trump, to express strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the EU," Pence said at a joint press conference with European Council President Donald Tusk after their meeting in Brussels.
He stressed that despite differences between the United States and the EU, the two sides "share the same heritage, the same values, above all the same purpose to promote peace, prosperity, freedom, and rule of law."
With regard to the Ukraine crisis, Pence vowed that the United States will continue to "hold Russia accountable" and "demand that Russia honor the Minsk agreement, beginning by deescalating the violence in eastern Ukraine."
"We urge both sides to abide by the ceasefire as scheduled, to begin today, in the interest of peace, and in the interest of innocent human lives," he added.
Pence also voiced the United States' willingness to "search in news ways for new common grounds with Russia, which President Trump believes can be found."
The EU, which slapped sanctions on Russia in 2014 in response to an alleged role it played in conflicts in eastern Ukraine, is deeply concerned over Trump's pro-Russia stance.
Tusk said he raised "three key matters," namely international order, security and the attitude of the new U.S. administration towards the European Union, during his meeting with Pence, and got all positive answers from his guest.
"We are counting, as always in the past, on the United States' wholehearted and unequivocal -- let me repeat -- unequivocal support for the idea of a united Europe," stressed Tusk, who reiterated the importance of a united Europe.
"The world would be a decidedly worse place if Europe were not united," said Tusk, adding that "Americans know best what great value it is to be united, and that becoming divided is the prelude to a fall."
"It is in the interest of us all to prevent the disintegration of the West. And, as for our continent, in this respect we will not invent anything better than the European Union," said Tusk.
Earlier on Monday, Pence met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who hailed the "excellent meeting" as "good basis for our cooperation."
Pence is on his first diplomatic visit to Brussels as U.S. vice president, after attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Pence said Saturday at the conference that his country would "strongly support NATO" as European members of the military alliance were worried about security uncertainties arising from possible change in U.S. policy.
While seeking to reassure European leaders, Pence also urged NATO members to shoulder their fair share. "NATO requires your commitment as much as ours," he said.