EU says Ukraine amnesty, regional laws help peace effort
The EU said Wednesday that controversial Ukraine laws offering pro-Russian rebels an amnesty and special status in the conflict-torn east of the country were important steps toward a peaceful solution.
The self-rule and amnesty laws were agreed in a peace plan signed in Minsk by both Kiev and Moscow earlier this month which, despite ceasefire violations, appears to be the best bet to end the five-month conflict.
"Our point of view is that Ukraine has delivered on the Minsk agreement," European Union foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kojicancic said.
"The amnesty and regional status (laws) are important steps toward finding a sustainable political solution," Kojicancic said.
A statement issued later by the EU's foreign affairs arm repeated these remarks but added that Brussels expected Russia and the rebels to live up to their commitments in the Minsk accord.
"We expect that Russia and the separatists will reciprocate soon by implementing the pending points of the 12-point Minsk agreement," the statement said.
These covered "in particular, withdrawal of illegal armed groups, military equipment and fighters and mercenaries from Ukraine, as well as viable control of the Russian-Ukrainian border, to be monitored by the OSCE," it said.
The pro-Russian rebels have given Ukraine's measures a cautious welcome but also insisted again that they will not stop fighting for independence from Kiev.
Ukraine lawmakers unanimously approved the "special status" law on Tuesday just moments before they ratified a landmark pact with the EU which highlighted Ukraine's decisive turn away from Russia's sphere of influence.
President Petro Poroshenko said the moves should bring peace to the east where Kiev would have to come to "an understanding with these (rebel) leaders, bringing people peace, calm and harmony."
Some critics, however, say the measures go too far in accommodating Russia and the pro-Moscow rebels and could risk a permanent division of Ukraine.
The conflict has left some 2,900 people dead so far while at least 600,000 have been forced to flee their homes across the east, the industrial heart of the country which has been badly damaged in the fighting, according to UN figures.
© 2014 AFP