Geneva talks urge all-Ukraine dialogue on constitutional reform – Russian FM Lavrov

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Russia, US, EU and Ukraine recognized the need to disarm illegal groups in Ukraine, free squares and streets and amnesty the protesters in order to bring the country out of the crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday after four-party talks in Geneva. The participants of the quadrilateral talks on ways to resolve the crisis in Ukraine have stressed the urgency of a national dialogue leading to constitutional reform in the country, the minister added. 

Lavrov said the sides agreed that the crisis should be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves, with least interference by foreign mediators.

“The communique adopted today has a provision calling on the immediate start of a broad national dialogue in the context of a constitutional reform so that all regions could voice their wishes,” Lavrov said after talks in Geneva.

“It’s up to Kiev authorities now to ensure all-inclusive, transparent and accountable constitutional process,” he said.

Lavrov said constitutional reforms will be held in Ukraine under any scenario and the rights and demands of all regions will be respected.

“The top priorities are decentralization, significant shift of authority on the regions, including their right to elect own legislative and executive bodies,” the minister said.

“Here are the following steps that we urge to carry out: all illegal armed groups should be disarmed, all illegally occupied buildings should be returned to legitimate owners, all the occupied streets, squares and other public places in all cities of Ukraine should be released. Amnesty should be implemented on all the protesters, except of those who have committed serious crimes,” said Lavrov.

He said that Russia gave Western partners documents with the position of south-east regions of Ukraine, which were not presented at the meeting. Lavrov said that the United States has a decisive influence on the Kiev authorities, nevertheless both the US and the EU show a sincere interest in solving the problems of Ukraine.

In turn, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US intends to follow the way the Ukrainian authorities will fulfill their obligations that were pointed out in the Geneva communique. Kerry said that the authorities in Kiev have agreed to work actively with all representatives of the Ukrainian community for reform, but stressed that the US is ready to impose new sanctions against Russia if the protesters in the east do not fulfill all the points of the Geneva document.

The parties also agreed that there should be no attempt to alter or dilute the military and the political neutrality of Ukraine.

Following is a joint statement on Thursday by the four parties – Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine – meeting in Geneva to discuss the continuing conflict in Ukraine:

The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.

All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.

All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.

Amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes.

It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The US, E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.

The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.

The participants underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented.

Crisis settlement must be Ukraine’s own job – Lavrov

Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the United States were unanimous during talks in Geneva on Thursday that settling the Ukrainian crisis must be the job of the Ukrainians themselves, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“The agreements are largely based on compromises, but the main point for us is the acceptance by the participants of the indisputable fact that this crisis must be settled by the Ukrainians themselves,” Lavrov said.

Russia has no intentions to send troops to Ukraine – Lavrov

Moscow has no plans to send its troops to Ukraine as the move would go against Russia’s core interests in the region, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday. “We have no desire to send our troops to Ukraine, on the territory of a friendly state, on the territory where our brotherly people live,” Lavrov told reporters after quadrilateral talks on Ukrainian crisis in Geneva. “It is against Russia’s core interests,” Lavrov said.

He reiterated, though, that Moscow is deeply concerned about the discrimination of the Russian-speaking population, the Russian language and culture by Kiev authorities.

Lavrov denied allegations of the Russian military buildup in Crimea and said he had reassured his Western partners and Kiev that Russia would not violate its international obligations on military presence near borders with other countries.

“There is no military buildup there [in Crimea],” the minister said.

“There is our base there hosting as many naval personnel as required to maintain it.” “I can assure you that we will not deploy additional troops in Crimea or in any other region of the country in violation of Russia’s international obligations,” Lavrov said.

Four-party meeting approves document on deescalation of tensions in Ukraine – Lavrov

Four-party meeting has approved a document on deescalation of tension in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Russia, US, EU urge all sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence, the Russian foreign minister stressed. Russia will support OSCE mission in Ukraine towards dialogue, Lavrov noted. There is still a chance that the quadrilateral talks in Geneva on how to handle the current crisis in Ukraine could be wrapped up on Thursday, a Russian source close to negotiations said.

Talks on Ukraine standoff could end on Thursday – Russian diplomatic source

“The work continues. We hope that it will be finished today,” the source said. The source could not clarify what kind of a document may be adopted at the talks, but said it would be “a substantive text.” Western sources at the talks earlier expressed doubts about the possibility of finalizing negotiations by the end of the day.

Four-party talks on the crisis in Ukraine with delegates from Russia, the EU, and the US began in Geneva on Thursday. The meeting, aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, is being attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia.

Quadripartite talks on Ukrainian crisis begin in Geneva

Lavrov and Kerry met behind closed doors ahead of the talks on Thursday morning. The Russian foreign minister earlier rejected allegations levied by Kiev that Russia would cancel the meeting. He also called groundless Ukrainea’s claims that the domestic political situation in the country will not be discussed at the meeting, adding that de-escalation, the disarmament of illegal groups, constitutional reform and the upcoming May elections will all be on the agenda.

Russia insists on a deep and transparent constitutional reform in Ukraine, involving all political and regional interests, especially in light of the pro-federalization rallies which have recently intensified in the country’s eastern regions. Moscow has called on Kiev authorities to respect the interests of all ethnic groups in the country and acknowledge that Russians have the same rights as Ukrainians, in particular, to respect the use of the Russian language, which has faced a ban on official use.

A Eastern Ukraine, which has a large proportion of Russian speakers, has been swept by rallies supporting federalization since last month.

Russian Foreign Minister to participate in quadripartite conference on Ukrainian issue in Geneva

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will participate in a quadripartite conference on Ukrainian issue, a source in Russia’s delegation told RIA Novosti news agency.

“Lavrov has left for Geneva to participate in a conference on Ukrainian issue,” the source said.

It was reported earlier, that Geneva would see a conference of the US, the EU, Russia and Ukraine; the countries will discuss the ways of the regulation of Ukrainian crisis.

It was also reported that Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, as well as the US Secretary of State John Kerry would take part in the conference.

Last Saturday, Andrii Deshchytsia, acting as Ukrainian Foreign Minister, confirmed that he would take part in the conference.

On February 22, Ukraine saw a coup; the Verkhovna Rada ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, changed the Constitution and set the presidential elections for May 25. Russia considers that the current government is illegitimate.

US Secretary of State arrives in Geneva for crunch Ukraine talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Geneva Wednesday for high-stake talks on the escalating crisis in Ukraine, which faces the threat of splitting up as the government loses control of the separatist east.

Kerry is due to meet with his Russian, Ukrainian and EU counterparts on Thursday in a bid to defuse soaring tensions in the ex-Soviet satellite where pro-Russian militants that Kiev says are backed by Moscow have taken control of parts of the southeast.

Ukraine entry ban on Russians outrageous – Russian FM Lavrov

The entry ban imposed by Ukraine on certain groups of Russian citizens is outrageous, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

“We drew attention to the decision banning Russian males of particular age from entering Ukraine. This is outrageous and does not correspond with the atmosphere our Western counterparts aimed to create during the meeting,” Lavrov said following the results of the four-party talks on Ukraine.

He also called this move on the part of the Ukrainian government “obviously discriminatory and unfriendly.”

The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service confirmed earlier on Thursday that Russian males aged 16-60 were denied access to the country. Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot earlier announced it had received an official letter from Ukrainian authorities notifying the company of the severe restrictions. The exceptions to the ban include passengers traveling with relatives who are women or children, or those who have documents confirming an invitation from close relatives or serious illness or death in the family, the company said.

“Ukrainian females aged 20-35 years who are registered as residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol will be allowed to enter Ukraine only after special verification,” Aeroflot added.

Also on Thursday the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service announced it had recently denied entry to over 11,000 Russian citizens, citing a need to prevent radicals from entering the country.

“As part of ‘Operation Border,’ over 11,000 citizens of the Russian Federation were denied access [to the country] in an effort to prevent radicals from entering Ukraine,” a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service Marina Ostapenko said. It was unclear on what basis or criteria they were denied entry.

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