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BMW CEO Calls for Diplomatic Solution to Crimea Dispute

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Bayerische Motoren Werke AG Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the Crimean region needs a negotiated settlement rather than military involvement.

“There must be a diplomatic solution” to the dispute, Reithofer said at a press conference at the carmaker’s Munich headquarters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an accord yesterday setting in motion Crimea’s accession to Russia 60 years after the Black Sea peninsula was made part of Ukraine. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to push European leaders to agree on additional measures against Russia when they meet tomorrow in Brussels. As tensions rose, Ukraine accused Russian forces of being involved in a shooting that killed a Ukrainian soldier.

BMW, the world’s biggest manufacturer of luxury vehicles, is “closely monitoring the situation,” and “we currently don’t anticipate a larger escalation of the conflict,” Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner told journalists. Any intensification of the conflict would force BMW to revise its plan for the former Soviet region, he said, and “of course we’ve got obligations with our business partners in Russia.”

The company’s Russian sales, including deliveries by the Mini brand, rose 12 percent last year to 44,871 cars and sport-utility vehicles, counter to a 5.5 percent drop in the country’s auto market, according to the Moscow-based Association of European Businesses. The main BMW nameplate accounted for 1.5 percent of industry sales in Russia in 2013 compared with 1.3 percent a year earlier.

BMW’s global group sales jumped 6.4 percent in 2013 to 1.96 million vehicles. The company also owns U.K. ultra-luxury car manufacturer Rolls-Royce.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christoph Rauwald in Munich at crauwald@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Risser at drisser@bloomberg.net Tom Lavell, Thomas Mulier

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