Lavrov says 'no consensus' over polls in rebel east Ukraine
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that "no consensus" has been reached over the timing of polls in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, after France and Germany pushed for elections to be held by the end of June.
The top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany met in Paris Thursday but failed to make a breakthrough on a stalled peace plan for east Ukraine thrashed out in the Belarussian capital Minsk a year ago.
Lavrov said that Germany and France had pushed for the meeting to call on all sides in the conflict to hold elections by the end of June, but that Kiev had opposed the demand.
"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 the foreign ministry website on Friday.
The local elections in the areas held by pro-Russian rebels -- whom Kiev and the West say Moscow arms and directs -- are seen as a key step in untangling a conflict that has claimed over 9,100 lives since April 2014.
Low-level fighting is dragging on in flashpoints along the frontline despite a string of ceasefire deals tamping down violence around most of the conflict zone.
Ukraine has long insisted there must be a total cessation of hostilities in the country's restive east before holding the polls.
Kiev says Russia must return control over its border in order to cut off the flow of weapons and fighters to the rebels but Moscow says the Ukrainian authorities must first guarantee the insurgents greater autonomy and hold elections.
"Unfortunately there have been no breakthroughs in the most important area -- preparations for elections," Lavrov said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the Paris meeting on Thursday was a "step forward", but his German and Ukrainian counterparts painted a gloomier picture of negotiations.
© 2016 AFP