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Ukraine-Russia talks 'constructive'

October 17, 2014

Leaders of the EU, Russia and Ukraine have held talks on the crisis in eastern Ukraine. The talks were carried out on the sidelines of a European-Asian summit in Milan.

ASEM in Milan Ukraine on Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi in Mailand
Image: O. Morin/AFP/Getty Images

The top brass meeting was a "step ahead" on resolving the conflict in Ukraine, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said after the talks.

He added that the leaders had a "constructive discussion," building on the peace plan for eastern Ukraine agreed upon last month in Minsk.

"We cannot accept an unstable Ukraine, and so we will do all in our power to give back hope to Ukraine, but ... we care very much about the possibility to involve again Russia in the international situation," Renzi added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shook hands briefly before the talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"It was good, it was positive," a smiling Putin told reporters after discussions.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned after the meeting on Friday that the EU would have to maintain sanctions imposed on Russia if it "doesn't stick to its commitments."

Pressure on Moscow

European leaders held a first round of talks on Thursday and appeared to point the finger at Moscow for the constant violation of a ceasefire agreement struck in Minsk last month.

Ahead of the final day of the ASEM summit, Merkel met with Putin and Poroshenko on Thursday night.

"The meeting went very well and we have seen a great demonstration of support for Ukraine," Poroshenko said afterwards.

Merkel put pressure on Putin to observe the ceasefire agreed at the beginning of September.

"It is obviously above all Russia's task to make clear that the Minsk plan is adhered to," Merkel told reporters on Thursday after talks. "Unfortunately, there are still a lot of shortcomings but it will be important to look for a dialogue here."

Diplomacy on the sidelines

The West imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, and also for its alleged support of pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia denied the charges, but said it had a right to defend the interests of the region's Russian-speaking majority.

Jose Manuel Barroso has announced the next round of talks between Ukraine, Russia and the EU will happen next week in Brussels. There, leaders will seek a solution to a gas row.

Putin warned on Thursday that Moscow would reduce gas supplies to Europe if Ukraine steals from the transit pipeline to cover its own needs.

However, he said he was "hopeful" it would not come to that.

sb/glb (AP, dpa, AFP)