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MOSCOW, June 8. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that candidates were being selected to replace Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, who had stepped down as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's envoy to talks between Moscow, Kiev and representatives of east Ukraine’s self-proclaimed republics.
"I wouldn’t say that Heidi Tagliavini’s resignation is connected with her disappointment over prospects for implementation of the Minsk agreements," Lavrov said. "She must have some personal reasons. She has worked as a mediator in widely differing areas of European policy."
Russia’s top diplomat noted that the latest talks between representatives of working subgroups formed as part of the Trilateral Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis on June 2 did not reveal any signs of "a slowdown" in the peace process. "On the contrary, they had quite a compelling and professional discussion," he said, noting certain progress in work of the security subgroup and the subgroup for political issues.
"The sides have managed to agree on something in advance. Some issues have been left for further contacts," Lavrov said, adding that the meeting was "useful and laid quite a good basis for reaching a whole range of agreements" envisaged by the peace deal signed in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
Lavrov noted, however, that "not everyone was probably satisfied" with the outcome of talks. "Immediately after the June 2 sessions of the working subgroups, escalation has risen sharply, shelling has resumed and very aggressive combative rhetoric could be heard from Kiev," he said, recalling the Ukrainian government’s threats "not to talk with the Donetsk and Lugansk regions or to lift the economic blockade [of the country’s east] before replacing the authorities in Donbass".
"As for the influence of Heidi Tagliavini’s resignation on the negotiation process, of course, the replacement will be found - it’s up to the OSCE to decide," he said. "As far as we know, candidates are now being selected. When Heidi Tagliavini was appointed to the position, despite the fact that we had known her well for a long time, she came to Moscow, presented her vision of the work she was to do and told us how she was planning to organise her work."
"We hope, of course, that the candidate who will replace her will also visit both Moscow and Kiev and will hold talks with Donetsk and Lugansk," Lavrov noted. "Probably, a new person won’t be able to continue the smooth continuation of work, but we hope that Tagliavini will help him or her during this transition period."
Last Tuesday’s meetings in the Belarussian capital Minsk brought together representatives of three working subgroups - for security, humanitarian and political issues.
Negotiations were held behind closed doors and were expected to focus on issues of de-escalation of tensions in southeast Ukraine’s village of Shirokino, prisoner exchanges and economic recovery in the country’s southeast.
Participants were also due to discuss ways of conducting local elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and necessary changes to Ukrainian law.