Tiller­son reassures Ukraine on Rus­sia sanc­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Matthew Lee and Jim Heintz of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by David E. Sanger of The New York Times.

KIEV, Ukraine — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son told Ukraine’s leader on Sun­day that Amer­i­can and European Union sanc­tions would re­main in place against Rus­sia un­til Rus­sia re­verses course in Ukraine.

Tiller­son said Rus­sia should use its in­flu­ence with separatists in Ukraine’s east to fully re­store an oft-vi­o­lated truce, end ha­rass­ment and at­tacks on in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors, and pull back heavy weaponry to lines agreed upon un­der a two-yearold ac­cord known as the Minsk Agree­ment. He said a pri­mary goal of the United States “is to re­store Ukraine’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty” and that would be “re­quired in or­der for the U.S. and Rus­sia to im­prove our re­la­tion­ship.”

“It is nec­es­sary for Rus­sia to take the first steps to de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion in the eastern part of Ukraine,” Tiller­son told re­porters at a joint news con­fer­ence in Kiev with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. “This is nec­es­sary for us to make any move­ment.”

“We do call on Rus­sia to honor its com­mit­ments that were made un­der the Minsk ac­cords and to ex­er­cise in­flu­ence over the separatists in the re­gion that they have com­plete con­trol over,” he said, adding later: “The U.S. and EU sanc­tions on Rus­sia will re­main in place un­til Moscow re­verses the ac­tions that trig­gered these par­tic­u­lar sanc­tions.”

Poroshenko thanked Tiller­son for the con­tin­ued U.S. com­mit­ment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and ex­pressed deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Tiller­son’s “sym­bolic and timely visit im­me­di­ately af­ter the meet­ings at the G-20 in Hamburg” — the sum­mit of the Group of 20 na­tions in Germany, where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump met with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s pri­mary diplo­matic ob­jec­tive has been to get the sanc­tions lifted, and Trump ques­tioned the value of the sanc­tions dur­ing his cam­paign for pres­i­dent. Poroshenko has wor­ried that Trump’s ef­forts to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia would lead to U.S. con­ces­sions on Ukraine, even though the U.S. Sen­ate voted 97-2 last month to toughen the Rus­sian sanc­tions in part be­cause of Rus­sia’s con­tin­ued in­ter­ven­tion in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko was es­pe­cially com­pli­men­tary of Tiller­son’s de­ci­sion last week to ap­point a spe­cial en­voy for Ukraine ne­go­ti­a­tions, for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to NATO Kurt Volker. Tiller­son said Volker was ap­pointed be­cause the U.S. was “dis­ap­pointed by the lack of progress un­der the Minsk process.”

Volker will over­see U.S. ef­forts to press Ukraine and Rus­sia to fully com­ply with the Minsk Agree­ment, which lays out a roadmap for re­duc­ing the con­flict that has claimed some 10,000 lives over the past three years. The ac­cord was reached in early 2015 in the cap­i­tal of Be­larus by the lead­ers of France, Germany, Ukraine and Rus­sia but has yet to be im­ple­mented. Un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, the U.S. had taken a hands-off ap­proach to Minsk, al­low­ing the Euro­peans to take the lead.

Poroshenko, who said Volker would re­main in Ukraine for the next sev­eral days, main­tained that a res­o­lu­tion to the cri­sis “needs only the po­lit­i­cal will of Moscow.”

“Kiev did not plan, did not start this war,” he said. “It was planned and started in Moscow. That’s why the keys to peace­ful set­tle­ment are in Moscow.”

Rus­sia de­nies charges that it is ac­tively in­volved in the in­sur­gency, but has said that in or­der for peace to take hold, Kiev must agree to po­lit­i­cal changes that would give the east greater au­ton­omy. The Ukrainian gov­ern­ment con­tends that the vi­o­lence must end be­fore any po­lit­i­cal changes can be­gin.

Tiller­son and other U.S. of­fi­cials for some time have been push­ing Ukraine to press ahead with le­gal changes that would curb cor­rup­tion and im­prove gov­ern­men­tal trans­parency.

Tiller­son praised Ukraine’s progress in com­bat­ing graft but made clear that more must be ac­com­plished.

“Ukraine has come a long way,” he said. “We want to ac­knowl­edge that, [but] we still have more to do. This is all about se­cur­ing Ukraine’s fu­ture: mak­ing the place at­trac­tive for in­vestors, be­ing at­trac­tive to their European neigh­bors.”

Tiller­son on Sun­day also de­clined to say whether Trump, dur­ing his meet­ing with the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, ac­cepted Putin’s de­nials that Rus­sia was in­volved in ef­forts to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion.

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