Surprise deal reached on Ukraine crisis

EU, US and Russia outline steps designed to ease tensions, but Obama skeptical if Russia would stand by deal.

    Surprise deal reached on Ukraine crisis
    Obama said US and its allies are ready to impose new sanctions if Moscow did not follow up on commitments [Getty]

    The United States, European Union, Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement on immediate steps to be implemented to ease the crisis in Ukraine, but US President Barack Obama cautioned it was uncertain if Moscow would stand by the deal.

    Thursday’s agreement laid out concrete steps to "restore security for all citizens" and crucially urged "all illegal armed groups" to disarm and vacate "seized buildings". It also puts on hold additional economic sanctions which the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks were fruitless, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    "All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions," a joint statement issued after the Geneva talks said.

    It also gives amnesty to protesters who comply with the demands, except those found guilty of capital crimes.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry called the deal the result of a "good day's work" but emphasised that the words on paper must be followed by concrete actions and that those who had initially armed the groups were now responsible for making sure the disarmament took place.

    He said he had warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow would soon feel the brunt of new sanctions should it not follow through on its commitments under the agreement.

    Lavrov, speaking to reporters after the seven-hour negotiation, also spoke about the need for disarmament of unofficial armed groups, saying weapons should only be held by legitimate groups, and that the deal included "all regions of Ukraine".

    Obama, however, conveyed skepticism about Russia’s promises to de-escalate the crisis, adding that the US and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow did not follow up on its commitments.

    "The question now becomes, will in fact they use the influence that they've exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralisation reforms that they've proposed, stabilize their economy and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy and that their sovereignty will be respected?" said Obama.

    He did not say what additional sanctions might be in the offing if commitments made by Russia in Geneva do not materialise. US officials have prepared penalties on wealthy Russians in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as well on the entities they run.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged an extra $1.7m for a monitoring mission to Ukraine after speaking to the Obama on Thursday, in order to fortify potential sanctions against Russia.

    "The Prime Minister and President agreed that in the meantime the EU and US should continue preparatory work on potential additional sanctions, so that we are ready to respond quickly if the agreement were not implemented," Cameron’s office said in a statement.

    International observers

    As part of the agreement, monitors with the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be tasked with helping Ukraine authorities and local communities comply with the requirements outlined in the agreement.

    It said Kiev's plans to reform its constitution and transfer more power from the central government to regional authorities must be inclusive, transparent and accountable, including through the creation of a broad national dialogue.

    Despite the moves towards de-escalating the violence in Ukraine, Kerry emphasised there was still a strong disagreement over the future of Crimea.

    "We are not giving up but we did not come (to Geneva) to talk about Crimea," he said of the peninsula which was annexed by Russia last month. He added that the aims of the meeting had been to move away from the spiralling violence currently dominating the situation in Ukraine.

    "Nobody has left behind the issue of Crimea," he said.

    But Pro-Russian separatists occupying a local government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, however, said on Thursday they would not leave until supporters of Ukraine's new government quit their camp around Kiev's main square, known as the Maidan.

    "The people occupying the regional headquarters here in Donetsk have said they are not willing to leave their buildings until the pro-Ukraine protesters in Kiev vacate their building in Maidan. They want to make sure it does not just lead to them losing the gains they have made," said Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Donetsk.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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