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EU foreign ministers warn Ukraine on Tymoshenko, Russia on Ukraine

Ukraine needs to fulfill several agreements before striking a groundbreaking deal with the EU, foreign ministers have warned. The diplomats also told Russia not to interfere with countries seeking closer EU relations.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg Monday said that Ukraine had not fulfilled all the conditions set for a deal toward membership in the bloc. Moves by Ukraine to allow former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko - jailed in 2011 for seven years on controversial abuse of power charges - to go abroad for medical treatment, most likely to Germany, might not prove enough.

"We are ready to sign," said outgoing German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (center in photo). "But for this the last works have to be done, the last reforms need to be done, especially if it's about democracy and rule of law and the end of selective justice. We have a timetable, and this timetable shows that nobody should take too much time."

The Ukrainian parliament has debated whether to allow convicts to seek treatment abroad but return to the country to serve out their sentences. In Tymoshenko's case, this would leave her unable to take part in presidential polls in 2015. On Monday, Tymoshenko's party rejected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's terms for her release.

"We again emphasize that ending the problem of politically motivated justice and solving the problem of Yulia Tymoshenko lies exclusively with President Viktor Yanukovych," a statement from her party read.

According to the party, the president has control over Tymoshenko's fate and doesn't need any new bills passed to release her. Nor, according to the party, does Yanukovych's offer meet the EU's requirement to end the application of "selective justice" in Ukraine under which politicians could pressure courts to victimize their opponents.

"There are important reforms and important progress has been made," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague (right in photo). "But we do want to see further progress on selective justice and electoral reform and judicial reform," he added. "What happens with Tymoshenko is one of the subjects within that."

Russia's influence

In addition to signing the pact toward potential EU membership with Ukraine, the bloc seeks to sign closer cooperation deals with Moldova and Georgia at a November 28 and 29 summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. However, Russia has urged those nations instead to remain within its sphere. Though the European Union could sign a full association agreement with Ukraine, it would only offer pacts in principle to Georgia and Moldova pending further parliamentary approval.

Russian officials have offered Ukraine a cut in gas prices, but only if the country does not sign the EU association agreement. Last month, Russia banned Moldovan wine on the grounds that it did not meet quality standards.

The European Union has already made it easier to import Moldovan wines to the bloc's markets to offset the sanctions. The EU ministers will now discuss what measures to take if Russia makes similar moves to penalize countries seeking closer EU trade ties, "which is something we can definitely not exclude," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

"For us, it is important that Ukraine clearly turns its path toward Europe and not in the direction of Russia," said Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.

mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)