'Progress' ahead of Ukraine talks: Russia

11th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

Moscow said Wednesday there had been "noticeable progress" in talks ahead of a four-way Ukraine peace summit, but that it still opposes Ukraine regaining control of its border -- a key point in negotiations.

"Experts are working, there is noticeable progress," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters ahead of the talks aimed at finding a way out of 10 months of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine's government.

But Lavrov stressed that the issue of establishing border control should not be a pre-condition to any peace agreement.

"While there is fighting, while many other issues remain unsolved, this will be unrealistic, in my opinion," Lavrov told reporters after talks with visiting Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

Ukraine is demanding it get control back over some 400 kilometres (250 miles) of its border with Russia, arguing that the frontier is used by Russia to pour in supplies and soldiers helping the separatist fight.

The Kremlin denies aiding the rebels, who are expected to argue that any peace accord accept their recent territorial gains.

Agreeing a ceasefire, troop withdrawal and the "start of political dialogue" including municipal elections should be a priority, Lavrov said.

He slammed Kiev's "economic blockade" of the rebel-held territories, adding that "giving away the Russian part of the border in these conditions would mean depriving oneself even of humanitarian aid."

Russia's top diplomat added that on issues of border control Kiev had to negotiate directly with rebel authorities. "To me, it's a pretty obvious thing," he said.

Russia has sent in numerous convoys of what it says is humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas. Kiev accuses Moscow of using the convoys -- which Russia does not allow to undergo independent inspection -- to smuggle in weaponry and other war materiel.

© 2015 AFP

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