ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA remains committed to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and says a boycott would not be an effective way of reducing tensions in the region, soccer’s world governing body said on Friday.
The ongoing conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine government came to a head last week with the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane, leading to the deaths of 298 people.
Moscow denies supporting the separatists, but following the disaster senior German lawmakers raised the possibility of stripping Russia of the hosting rights to the World Cup.
The Dutch football association said it wanted to postpone discussion over participation in the next World Cup until after a national day of mourning to remember the victims, two-thirds of whom were from the Netherlands.
“As a world governing body of football FIFA takes its responsibility in governing football seriously and we support any peaceful and democratic debate,” the Zurich-based organization said in a statement.
“FIFA deplores any form of violence and will continue to use its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples.
“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems.”
FIFA said the World Cup could be a “powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments”, uniting teams and nations.
“FIFA is convinced that, through football, particularly the FIFA World Cup and its international spotlight, we can achieve positive change in the world, but football cannot be seen as a solution for all issues, particularly those related to world politics,” the ruling body added.
“We have seen that the FIFA World Cup can be a force for good and FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
The European Union has threatened to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia after the crash near Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels.
Reporting by Josh Reich, Editing by Ed Osmond