‘No good news’ from Ukraine peace talks

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TENSE TALKS  France's President Francois Hollande, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin (left to right) walk at the presidential residence in Minsk on Thursday, during a meeting aimed at halting a 10-month war in Ukraine where dozens were killed in the latest fighting. AFP PHOTO

TENSE TALKS
France’s President Francois Hollande, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin (left to right) walk at the presidential residence in Minsk on Thursday, during a meeting aimed at halting a 10-month war in Ukraine where dozens were killed in the latest fighting. AFP PHOTO

MINSK: Ukraine said on Thursday there was no good news yet after 14 hours of tortuous talks between Kiev, Moscow, Berlin and France, as the Kremlin was posing “unacceptable conditions” on ending the 10-month conflict in the ex-Soviet country.

“Unfortunately there’s no good news yet,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Agence France-Presse in a break during the marathon four-way peace summit in Minsk. “There are conditions that I consider unacceptable” being posed by Russia, he said, declining to elaborate.

“The [negotiations]process is ongoing,” he added.

Poroshenko, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been locked in talks at the presidential palace in Minsk since late on Wednesday, trying to work out a plan to end a conflict that has pitted pro-Russian rebels against Kiev government forces in east Ukraine, killing at least 5,300 people and plunging East-West relations to a post Cold War low.


“There is always hope,” said a tired Poroshenko. “We’re in non-stop talks, as you can see, the situation is very difficult, Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande are helping us a lot, but for now the situation is difficult,” he added.

Earlier, a diplomatic source told AFP there was hope that a contact group including representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is meeting in parallel, could reach a deal on “concrete implementation” of a failed September peace deal.

One of the main sticking points of the failed September “protocol” is who controls the 400 kilometer (250 mile) stretch of Russia’s border with rebel-controlled Ukraine. Kiev accuses Moscow of pouring troops and weapons across the border to bolster the insurgency, charges the Kremlin denies.

There is also deep disagreement over the size of the territory the rebels will control, as they have made considerable gains in recent weeks.

In a sign of progress, separatist leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky joined the contact group talks, where they had previously been represented by lower-level rebels.

Arch-foes Poroshenko and Putin were meeting for the first time since October at the climax of a frantic European diplomatic drive aimed at stopping the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War from escalating.

Underscoring the urgency, the number of those reported killed in the hours before the make-or-break talks rose to at least 49.

AFP

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