No breakthrough in talks with Russia over EU-Ukraine trade deal

2015-12-01 22:01
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Brussels - Talks aimed at resolving Russian concerns over a free trade agreement struck between the European Union and Ukraine failed on Tuesday to deliver a breakthrough, with just a month left before the deal comes into effect.

Russia has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Kiev from January 1 if the agreement is implemented then as planned.

The start date had previously been delayed by a year to address fears raised by Moscow that the deal could adversely affect its economy, and Brussels is steadfast that it will not be postponed a second time.

"Now the clock is ticking very fast," Malmstrom told a small group of journalists after several hours of meetings with Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

Some of Russia's concerns can be addressed by "practical solutions", the three agreed in a joint statement issued after their meeting. Talks are to resume at a technical level next week, Malmstrom said, in the hope of reaching agreement by the end of the year.

Such technical concerns include issues such as customs, food safety and animal health standards, or other technical barriers to trade, the commissioner said. But other issues are political and cannot be resolved by the commission, she added.

A first attempt to finalise that deal had failed in 2013, triggering protests in Kiev that led to the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, followed by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.

Relations between Brussels and Moscow have since fallen to their lowest level since the Cold War. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has heightened tensions on other issues, such as Russian gas supplies and trade relations.

Reaching agreement on the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement has been set as an important milestone in the framework of the Minsk ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine, agreed in February, which was supposed to be implemented by the end of the year.

Read more on:    eu  |  russia  |  ukraine

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