Ukraine crisis: Geneva talks produce agreement on defusing conflict

Apr 17th, 2014 | By | Category: European Union, News, Politics, Russia, Ukraine, USA

US, Russia, Ukraine and EU agree measures including end of violence, disarming of illegal groups and amnesty for protesters

Julian Borger

Seven hours of negotations in Geneva ended in agreement on a series of 'concrete steps'. Photograph: Eric Bridiers/EPA

Seven hours of negotations in Geneva ended in agreement on a series of ‘concrete steps’. Photograph: Eric Bridiers/EPA

The US, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have agreed a plan aimed at defusing the gathering conflict in eastern Ukraine.

At a meeting in Geneva which began with low expectations but led to seven hours of intense negotiations, foreign ministers agreed a series of “concrete steps” to be taken by all sides.

“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including antisemitism,” the joint statement said.

“All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.”

The constitution is also to be revised in a process that is “inclusive, transparent and accountable”.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry said the agreement “represents a good day’s work” but would have little meaning if it was not followed by action on all sides to calm the situation. He said if the US and EU did not see progress, new sanctions would follow.

“Over the next few days, over the course of this weekend and the earliest part of next week, some of these steps have to be seen and be evident,” Kerry said

The substantive agreement also grants amnesty to protesters including those who had occupied government property and surrendered their weapons. The exception would be those “found guilty of capital crimes”.

The deal represents a far better outcome than appeared possible when the four foreign ministers met on Thursday morning. Talks were expected to be perfunctory and last a little more than a couple of hours. A room was prepared for the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to give a press conference after just an hour, perhaps anticipating a walk-out.

The success of the agreement will depend on its implementation. Kerry made it clear that the US would hold Moscow responsible for controlling the pro-Russian protesters, who the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has portrayed the protestors as independent minded Ukrainians.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe will be given a leading role in monitoring the agreement and helping to implement it.

“The US, EU and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors,” the statement said.

On the constitution it said: “The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.”

Source: The Guardian

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