Tillerson urges Moscow to take first step to ease Ukraine conflict
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Russia yesterday to take the “first step” to ease the bloody separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and the West believe is being fuelled by Moscow. Tillerson said sanctions will remain in place against Russia “until Moscow reverses their actions”. “It is necessary for Russia to take the first step to de-escalate the situation in the east part of Ukraine,”Tillerson said as he made his first visit as Washington’s top diplomat to Kiev.
“We are disappointed by the lack of progress under the Minsk agreement,” he added at a joint briefing with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after they held talks. Tillerson’s visit to Ukraine followed a first face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Friday at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The conflict as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 has pushed ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.
“We do call on Russia to honor its commitments,” Tillerson said yesterday, referring to a peace deal aimed at halting the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia rebels. Tillerson urged the Kremlin “to respect the ceasefire, by pulling back the heavy weapons and (allowing) the OSCE (pan-European security body) to carry out their responsibilities” under the deal struck in February 2015. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the pro-Russian insurgency began in April 2014, which Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of orchestrating. The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, though Moscow has denied backing the rebels.
“The US and EU sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Moscow reverses their actions,” Tillerson stressed. Efforts to secure a peace deal have foundered as the fighting has dragged on, and neither side appears prepared to make concessions. Tillerson said he had appointed a special envoy to allow Washington to be more involved in a peace process overseen by Germany and France. Poroshenko hailed US involvement and reiterated his commitment to seeking a negotiated peace deal.
KIEV: This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press-service shows Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, giving a press conference yesterday in Kiev.