'Clock ticking very fast' for EU-Ukraine-Russia deal
The EU, Ukraine and Russia failed Tuesday to reach a deal to placate Moscow's fierce opposition to a free trade accord between Europe and Kiev that will enter into force in January.
The European Commission warned that "the clock is ticking very fast" to find a solution that will overcome Russia's bitter opposition to the trade pact, which is part of a broader EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
The sudden rejection of the association agreement by Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 triggered the pro-EU protests that led to his downfall and the conflict in Ukraine.
"We agreed to continue the work on the expert and ministerial levels but as there is now too little time left, it needs extraordinary efforts to reach an agreement," Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukaev said after talks in Brussels, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
"Seeing as we now only have a month left, the situation still causes concern," he said.
The deal between the EU and Ukraine was agreed in 2014 and is due to come into effect on January 1.
"If there is a will we can do it," the EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said after talks, but added that "the clock is ticking very fast."
Russia has threatened retaliation if the EU and Ukraine go ahead with the deal.
Kiev and Brussels have committed to address Russian concerns that their free trade deal will damage Moscow's own important economic ties and interests in the former Soviet state.
The talks on Monday follow several previous rounds between the three sides that showed no progress.
The EU still has tough sanctions in place against Russia over the Ukraine conflict and the annexation by Moscow of Crimea.
© 2015 AFP