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Merkel, Hollande urge Kiev to begin national dialogue with regions

May 10, 2014, 18:20 UTC+3 BERLIN

They said Russia should take “visible steps” to decrease the combat readiness of its army along the Ukrainian border

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© AP Photo/Michael Sohn

BERLIN, May 10, /ITAR-TASS/. Germany and France urged the Kiev authorities to begin a national dialogue with all regions before the presidential elections on May 25.

In their joint statement German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Saturday, May 10, said the dialogue should focus on vital issues such as the constitutional and legal system of Ukraine and decentralisation.

They stressed that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would play an important role in this process.

Merkel and Hollande also urged Kiev to present, within several days, plans for constitutional reform in the country and pledged to help to make the region “stable, safe and prosperous”.

They said force should be used only to protect people and infrastructure. “All parties to the conflict should give up violence, intimidation and provocative actions and statements,” they said.

At the same time, they noted that the use of force should be proportionate to measures aimed at protecting people and infrastructure.

They stressed the need to put an end to illegal armed groups in the country and start collecting arms from the population under the OSCE supervision from May 15.

Merkel and Hollande called for an immediate investigation of the unlawful use of force in Ukraine, specifically in Odessa and Mariupol, and expressed regret over the loss of life in these cities.

They also urged Kiev to adopt an amnesty law as soon as possible.

Unrests in Odessa

Unrests in Odessa erupted on Friday, May 2, with a mass fight started by football fans from Kharkov, Right Sector radicals and members of the so-called “Maidan self-defence” force from Kiev, who had decided to march along the streets of Odessa, thus provoking clashes with the supporters of Ukraine’s federalisation. As a result, 46 people had been killed in the clashes and over 200 had requested medical attention.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said the building had been set on fire by the same people who had seized it. However this disagrees with the footage and eye-witness reports from the scene.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian law enforcers opened fired from armoured combat vehicles at the participants in the rally marking the Victory Day on May 9. Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said at least 10 people had been killed. TV footage showed law enforcers using armoured vehicles against unarmed people and crushing them with APCs.

Hollande underscored the importance of the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25. He said the elections must be conducted in strict compliance with rules and standards and be transparent.

The French president believes that the elections will give their winner all the legitimacy he will need in running the country. He stressed, however, that political dialogue and de-escalation should precede the elections.

Merkel urged Russia to take more active steps to facilitate de-escalation of tensions in Ukraine.

Russia's actions

She and Hollande said Russia should take “visible steps” to decrease the combat readiness of its army along the Ukrainian border.

“The Russian troops along the border with Ukraine should take visible steps to decrease their combat readiness,” the German and French leaders said. “Stabilisation in Ukraine is in the interests of all countries in the region. Efforts towards the political settlement of the crisis being taken by all sides and organisations, especially the OSCE, should be welcomed, protected and facilitated,” they said.

Merkel and Hollande were unanimous in that “there are the first signs [of movement in this direction] but they need to be firmed up”. They believe that any action otherwise would lead to further escalation of the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the supporters of federalisation in the East of Ukraine to postpone their referendum from May 11 until a later date in order to create conditions for dialogue with the Kiev authorities. However the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics decided to proceed with their plans and hold the referendum on May 11 as scheduled.

Merkel and Hollande said that the referendum would be unlawful and reiterated their readiness to impose additional sanctions against Russia if the presidential elections in Ukraine do not take place on May 25.

“If the internationally recognised presidential elections are not held, this can inevitably lead to further destabilisation in the country,” the two leaders said, adding that in this case they would have to move on to the third round of sanctions - economic this time against Russia as the EU countries agreed on May 6.

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