Poroshenko announces new talks with rebels, Russia

6th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Saturday that his envoy would attend a crucial round of peace talks with pro-Russian rebels in the Belarussian capital Minsk next week.

The Western-backed leader said a "preliminary agreement" had been reached for a meeting also involving envoys from Moscow and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to be held on Tuesday.

Ukraine and the rebels have agreed to begin a ceasefire on the same day -- reinforcing a peace plan agreed when the four sides last met in Minsk on September 5.

The Belarus talks will aim "to confirm the timetable for implementing the (original) Minsk agreements," Poroshenko told reporters while paying a visit to soldiers stationed in the eastern government-held region of Kharkiv.

"On December 9, we will have a Day of Silence," he said in reference to the planned suspension of military operations.

"And in the subsequent 30 days, (the sides) must pull back (heavy weapons) from the demilitarisation zone outlined in the Minsk Protocol," Poroshenko said.

The Russian-brokered ceasefire that the rebels and a Kiev envoy signed on September 5 was meant to establish a 30-kilometre (18-mile) buffer zone between the fighters and grant limited self-rule to the separatists.

But hostilities only intensified after the two rebel regions -- the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk -- held their own leadership polls on November 2 that were denounced by both Kiev and the West.

Poroshenko and the separatist leaders agreed to the new ceasefire after an upsurge of violence sparked media rumours of very heavy casualties being suffered by all sides around the flashpoint Donetsk airport in the past week.

Ukraine has been represented at the negotiations by former president Leonid Kuchma.

The United Nations estimates that the eight-month crisis has killed more than 4,300 people and driven nearly one million from their homes.

© 2014 AFP

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