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Talks fail to resolve conflict in Ukraine

By Agencies in Milan | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-18 08:44

Putin says discussions 'good', but Merkel sees no breakthrough

Russia, Ukraine and European governments failed to make any progress toward solving the crisis in Ukraine on Friday in talks that the Kremlin said were "full of misunderstandings and disagreements".

Further discussions were scheduled later in the day, but there were few expectations of any immediate accord to strengthen a faltering cease-fire in eastern Ukraine.

"I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after top EU leaders met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting summit in Milan.

"We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine," she added, clearly pinning the blame for the impasse on Moscow.

A smiling Putin emerged from the morning to tell reporters: "It was good, it was positive."

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later gave a very different readout, saying "certain participants" had taken an "absolutely biased, nonflexible, nondiplomatic" approach to Ukraine.

"The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress," he said.

Merkel's position as German leader in effect means that she sets the tone of EU relations with Russia, and she has taken the lead within Europe in trying to persuade Putin to change its Ukraine strategy.

She had a rocky time in Milan, however, with one German official saying the Russian leader had not displayed a "too-constructive mood".

'A step forward'

But Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he was feeling positive about the settlement of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine after meeting the two countries' presidents in Milan.

"I think we have made a step ahead," Renzi said regarding the discussion on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, calling the talks "constructive" at a news conference after the meeting.

He acknowledged there were obvious differences between the countries, but stressed the very real desire to find a solution.

"We did not start from zero, as the Milan meeting comes after a very good protocol, the Minsk Protocol. The meeting has stressed the importance of implementing this protocol and continuing in the direction of cooperation," the Italian prime minister said.

The West has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea and to what they allege is its support for east Ukraine's separatists.

The European leaders urged Russia to do more to end constant, deadly violations of a cease-fire that Putin and Poroshenko agreed to in Minsk last month.

Progress in gas supply

Poroshenko said progress had been made during talks on Friday aimed at resolving a dispute over gas supplies from Russia that also threatened deliveries to Europe.

"We have some progress on the gas issue," Poroshenko said, adding that the "basic parameters" of a new contract with Russia had been agreed while further discussion on how to finance it was required.

Putin had warned that "major transit risks" could lead to a disruption of the flow of Russian gas to western Europe this winter.

Reuters - Xinhua - AFP

(China Daily 10/18/2014 page12)

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