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Four-party meeting on Ukraine starts in Geneva

April 17, 2014, 13:15 UTC+3 URGENT - FOUR-PARTY MEETING ON UKRAINE STARTS IN GEN
The participants will look into possible ways of defusing the current crisis in Ukraine
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry

© AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool)

GENEVA, April 17. /ITAR-TASS/. A four-party meeting on Ukraine with Russia, the United States and the European Union has started in Geneva.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the parliament-appointed Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia take part in the meeting.

The participants will look into possible ways of defusing the current crisis in Ukraine.

A proposal to hold consultations in this format came from the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, at the beginning of this month and the outline of the conference started taking clear contours after Sergei Lavrov had given consent to them. However, Lavrov’s proposal to invite representatives of the regions of Ukraine having problems with the authorities in Kiev was left unheeded.

Although the talks in Geneva have already opened formally, the subject of discussions behind closed doors in the plush hotel Intercontinental remains a mystery. Lavrov said earlier this week during a visit to China that the agenda of the Geneva consultations had been coordinated in broad-brush strokes.

“Defusing of tensions, disarmament of paramilitary units, a constitutional reform, and elections are the things that should be discussed there,” he said.

Moscow obviously puts the biggest emphasis on the constitutional reform, with Lavrov saying that it should be “a genuine reform, not just face-lifting”.

“A clue to settling the crisis is the beginning of a genuine constitutional reform that will embrace all the regions of Ukraine without exception,” he said.

In the meantime, US diplomats say there is no clear agenda for the talks at the moment. An official at the US office Geneva said he had not seen it and he thought that each participating delegation was going to bring its own ideas and blueprints to conference table.

Ukraine plans to focus attention on an entirely different set of issues. Interim acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said in Kiev on the eve of the conference he would insist that Russia’s Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, revoke its permission to President Putin to use Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine.

In addition to this, Kiev will press for a withdrawal of Russian troops from Crimea, a pullback of Russian armed units from the Russian-Ukrainian border, and “the annulling of the legal decision on the annexation of Crimea”.

As for Ukraine’s internal problems, like the demands to turn the country into a federation (which Moscow supports as well), the incumbent authorities in Kiev are not going to discuss them at the Geneva talks.

“Ukraine is not going to discuss its internal problems at this meeting and that’s why we won’t discuss the problems pertaining to federalization — it’s off the agenda,” Yuri Klimenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN agencies and other international organizations on Geneva said in connection with the consultations.

Russian Foreign Ministry officials disagree with Klimenko’s assertion. “It hardly worthwhile trusting the claims that Ukraine’s internal crisis won’t be discussed at the meeting and the steps that ostensibly should be taken by Russia will be discussed instead,” Sergei Lavrov said.

“Assertions of this sort are a total lie,” he said. “We’re getting together (in Geneva) precisely for the purpose of discussing the internal Ukrainian crisis.”

In a nutshell, de-escalation of the conflict appears to be the only problem understanding of which the conferring parties seem to share. All the participants in the conference mentioned the importance of it, and the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton said in this connection the objective of the talks was to kick off a dialogue on the ways of reaching de-escalation in and bringing stability back to Ukraine.

Along with it, Moscow feels confident that the Geneva format might still be useful in some respects. It says that the Ukrainians themselves could agree on the methods of untangling the crisis. What is more, they have the right to do it in the absence of any pressures from the outside and without the use of Armed Forces in the southeast of their country while the risks of it are growing from one day to another.

“The Ukrainians have all the powers to make agreements because the root-causes of this crisis lurk in Ukrainian statehood and they won’t get out of this crisis unless they launch a dialogue involving all the political forces and all the regions of their country,” Lavrov said.

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