EU sees 'positive signs' from Russia over Ukraine
The European Union sees some "positive signs" from Russia over the crisis in Ukraine ahead of a mooted summit of key leaders in Kazakhstan, the bloc's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Thursday.
Mogherini insisted however that Moscow would have to meet the terms of last year's Minsk peace agreement before European sanctions imposed over the violence in eastern Ukraine can be lifted.
"I can refer for the moment to some limited positive signs on the Russian side," Mogherini told a press conference in Riga to launch Latvia's six-month presidency of the 28-nation EU.
But the former Italian foreign minister added that the "perception of the Ukrainian leadership about how positive and how limited or not limited" those signs were was a key concern.
"We have to trust the Ukrainians if they say there are some openings and we have to help them building on this," she said.
Mogherini said she would wait to hear the assessment of Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who will travel to Kiev then Moscow this weekend for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The EU diplomatic chief said however that there was a "different Russian attitude" on other issues including the Iranian nuclear talks and the Syrian conflict.
Her assessment came days before a yet-to-be-confirmed four-way summit in Kazakhstan on January 15 between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Russia must stick to the Minsk deal, and added that the Astana talks were still subject to preliminary talks between their foreign ministries.
The EU imposed limited sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and widened them dramatically after the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine in July.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of supplying the insurgents with heavy weapons and Russian army units as part of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in which the UN says more than 4,700 people have died. The Kremlin denies the allegations.
© 2015 AFP