Ukraine and Russia said Friday it had not signed up to any agreements at peace talks in Paris where France and Germany pushed for elections in pro-Russian separatist regions by the end of June.
The two EU powers have been mediating negotiations between Ukraine and Russia over the 23-month war in the industrial east of the former Soviet republic.
“No agreements were reached,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted early Friday, while his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov also said “no consensus” had been reached over the holding of elections in the wartorn zone.
The fighting has killed nearly 9,200 people since April 2014 and raised alarm in eastern Europe about what they see as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive foreign policy stance.
Berlin and Paris argue that one of the continent’s worst crises since the Balkans wars of the 1990s could be settled if the rebel-run regions hold Western-monitored polls that may be recognised as valid by Kiev.
But Ukraine insists that it cannot accept such elections until a lasting and fully-verifiable ceasefire is established first.
“Our position — security first,” Klimkin wrote on Twitter.
Kiev has also expressed fears that Russia — already having annexed Crimea in 2014 — may try to unsettle the country further by exerting influence over the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk provinces within a reunified Ukraine.
A separatist vote also threatens to unleash a popular backlash against President Petro Poroshenko whose approval rating is already a fraction of what it was when he took office shortly after parliament ousted Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leadership in February 2014.
The resulting stalemate appears to be undermining EU efforts to return calm to the outer edge of the 28-nations’ eastern frontier and focus on new concerns such as the ongoing migrant crisis and the possibility of Britain leaving the union.
– Kiev blamed –
“We underlined the importance of adopting an electoral law to hold local elections by the end of the first half of 2016,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the close of the Paris meeting on Thursday with his three counterparts.
He also called for the release and exchange of all prisoners and people held in “illegal detention” by the end of April.
His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier did little to hide his frustration over the meeting.
“I am not satisfied by the way in which Kiev and Moscow have been leading these negotiations,” he told reporters.
Steinmeier had first floated the idea of the insurgents conducting their own elections in the coming months at a UN Security Council meeting on Monday.
Both Moscow and a top separatist negotiator blamed the seeming failure to achieve progress on Kiev.
Lavrov said Ukraine was the only side at the meeting to reject the idea of setting a firm deadline for elections in rebel-run parts of the east.
“We were ready to support it but the Ukrainian side requested that it not be insisted upon. As a result, no consensus was reached,” Lavrov said in comments posted on Russian foreign ministry website on Friday.
And Donetsk separatist negotiator Denis Pushilin accused Kiev of being the main stumbling block to a settlement that could suit all sides.
“We have already found common ground with France, Germany and Russia,” Pushilin said in comments posted on the Donetsk separatists’ news site.
“But Ukraine is dropping out of this coalition,” he added.
“We are seeing an unconstructive approach from Kiev: they are unable to adopt decisions and implement their assumed obligations.”