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US ready to support ‘serious return to negotiations’ on Ukraine — diplomat

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland agreed that the peace process would require Kiev’s efforts as well

WASHINGTON, February 4. /TASS/. The United States is ready to support a "serious return to negotiations" on eastern Ukrainian reconciliation, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland has told TASS in an interview.

"We are prepared to support a serious return to negotiation. But you know for the last bunch of years, these have been Kabuki talks, so if we can be helpful we are ready to be helpful," she said.

She gave no direct answer to the question of what exactly the United States planned to do to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba ruled out the possibility of a special status for the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.

The Ukrainian top diplomat made the statement during his recent interview with a Polish newspaper, Rzeczpospolita.

"Well, I've not seen whatever statement that you're referring to," she said, adding that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has repeatedly assured Washington of his commitment to the Minsk agreements. "In all of our conversations with the Ukrainian government, including the president's conversations with President Zelensky, he says he is ready to implement Ukraine's obligations under Minsk, but Moscow also has to ensure that its own obligations and those of DNR and LNR are implemented."

"So as you remember, I worked on these issues. So the last time I was in government, we believe that with goodwill on all sides the Minsk agreements can still be implemented, but it's going to require also Russia be ready to withdraw its support, military support and pull out its forces from Ukraine," she said.

The diplomat agreed that the peace process would require Kiev’s efforts as well. "Absolutely," she said.

Russia has repeatedly said that it was not a party to the Ukrainian conflict, and favored full and strict implementation of the Minsk agreements, which it signed only as a mediator in the peace process.

Efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Donbass are based on the Minsk Agreements, which particularly include moves to declare a ceasefire, withdraw weapons, declare amnesty, restore economic ties and conduct constitutional reform in Ukraine through dialogue with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR, LPR), aimed at decentralizing power and providing a special status to certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

However, the negotiation process has actually stalled because of Kiev’s refusal to fulfill the political provisions of the Minsk accords. In particular, Kiev is reluctant to build any direct dialogue with the DPR and LPR and enshrine the region's special status in the constitution and demands to have control of Donbass’ border with Russia before the implementation of the political provisions of the accords. Meanwhile, under Paragraph Nine of the Package of Measures on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, work to restore full control over the border should begin the next day after local elections take place and be completed only after a comprehensive political solution is found.