Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Top diplomats seek Ukraine solution in Paris talks

5 March 2014 (BBC News) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has begun talks with counterparts from the US and key EU states to try to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. The US wants independent observers in the flashpoint region of Crimea and direct talks between Kiev and Moscow. Russia is likely to call for greater representation for Ukraine's Russian-speaking areas in the Kiev government. The EU earlier offered 11bn euros ($15bn; £9bn) of aid to Ukraine and froze the assets of 18 Ukrainians.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the package of loans and grants over the next couple of years was "designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government" in Kiev. Ukraine's finance ministry has predicted it needs $35bn to rescue the economy.
Mr Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from the UK, Germany and France on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris. Nato and Russia are also due to hold parallel talks in Brussels.
The Paris gathering is being seen above all as a chance to test the waters for a dialogue about Ukraine, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall. But UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Russians had already failed to appear at one meeting with the Ukrainians in Paris so he was "not optimistic" of making progress later. "If we cannot make progress on that course there will be costs and consequences," he said, in reference to a threat of sanctions by the US and EU.
In other developments:
  • Hundreds of pro-Russian demonstrators have stormed the regional government building in Donetsk for the second time in recent days
  • In Crimea, pro-Russian demonstrators have been turning away families bringing food and supplies to Ukrainian troops refusing to surrender their bases
  • Russian forces have seized two Ukrainian missile-defence sites in Crimea, according to unconfirmed reports
  • Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel announces plans to expand US military co-operation with Poland and Baltic states

Troops believed to be Russian servicemen are in control of Ukrainian military bases in Crimea