Russia, Ukraine agree to 3-way talks with rebels

Updated: 2014-07-04 08:41

By Agencies in Berlin and Kiev, Ukraine (China Daily)

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The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin on Wednesday to hold three-way talks involving separatist rebels by Saturday to pave the way for a new cease-fire, despite continued fighting and a rising death toll in eastern regions.

"It is a clear commitment to a multilateral cease-fire," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine's Pavlo Klimkin and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Russia and Ukraine continued to blame each other for the violence that marred the 10-day cease-fire, which Kiev scrapped on Monday before resuming its military offensive against separatists in the east.

But Lavrov told a joint news conference alongside Klimkin and the two others that they had a greed to work for a "stable, long-term truce".

"We propose to achieve this through a meeting soon of the Contact Group, which-we hope-will hold a meeting in coming days and agree on the conditions for truce that would satisfy all sides,"said the Russian foreign minister.

That group, representing Ukraine, Moscow and the rebels, with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mediating, should meet"no later than July 5 with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable cease-fire", said a document agreed by all four ministers.

Klimkin added a note of caution, saying hostages must be released and Ukraine allowed to control its borders to stop the rebels from receiving fresh fighters and weapons.The document said Russia made a commitment to allow Ukrainian border guards across checkpoints in Gukovo and Donetsk to control this.

"The deescalation of the situation will happen when the peace plan of the Ukrainian president is respected in its totality,"said Klimkin.

Lavrov said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's decision to end the cease-fire had cost"people's lives and serious destruction of civilian infrastructure...but better late than never".

Poroshenko, under pressure at home to take a tough line on rebels who have been fighting Kiev's forces since April, refused to renew the 10-day cease-fire on Monday night and ordered an offensive against "the terrorists, militants and marauders".

That won backing from the United States, but drew criticism from Russia's Vladimir Putin, who said Ukraine's newly elected leader had veered off the road to peace.

Putin held a conference call on Thursday with President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which prospects for the Contact Group were discussed.

After the call, the Kremlin issued a statement highlighting Putin's comments on the growing civilian toll of the fighting.

"Vladimir Putin expressed deep concern over the growing number of peaceful civilians and a sharp increase in the number of refugees from southeastern Ukraine in Russia,"the statement said.

AFP - Reuters

 Russia, Ukraine agree to 3-way talks with rebels

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (left), Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin (right), Germany's Foreign Minister FrankWalter Steinmeier (2nd from right) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday. Thomas Peter / Reuters

(China Daily 07/04/2014 page12)