Ukraine ceasefire 'so far, so good,' next step crucial: NATO
NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a self-confessed sceptic about previous Russian-backed peace plans for Ukraine, said Friday he hoped a just-announced ceasefire could be the first step to a settlement.
Welcoming the news, he said the next "crucial step is to implement it in good faith ... but so far, so good," adding he hoped it "could be the start of a constructive political process".
Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels agreed the ceasefire on Friday at talks in Minsk, Belarus, brokered by the OSCE.
The deal follows a lightning rebel counter-offensive in southeastern Ukraine that Western powers say was spearheaded by regular Russian troops, raising fears of a wider confrontation on Europe's eastern flank.
Moscow has put forward several peace plans, the last by President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, which Rasmussen had dismissed as a smokescreen to cover its continued intervention in Ukraine.
"While talking about peace, Russia has not made one single step to make peace possible. Instead of de-escalating the crisis, Russia has only deepened it," he said Thursday.
On Friday, when asked about these comments, Rasmussen said: "I have all the way through been a bit cautious on these peace plans and announcements of truces and ceasefires."
"Based on experience, based on history, we know that one thing is a declaration and quite another thing is implementation."
He stressed, however, that he welcomed any progress towards a peaceful solution in a conflict which has so far cost some 2,600 lives and rocked Europe.
"That is why I stressed that what counts now is clear implementation in good faith," he added.
© 2014 AFP