Russia-US talks in Belgrade on Ukraine "accomplish nothing"

US State Department's special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker says his meetings in Belgrade with an envoy of Russia have produced no results.

Source: Beta
(Getty Images, file, illustration purposes)
(Getty Images, file, illustration purposes)

The Beta agency is reporting on Monday that Volker told "the international portal Politico" in an interview that his third face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin's adviser Vladislav Surkov "accomplished nothing" and represented "a step back."

Of the three meetings between the envoys, two took place in Serbia's capital, the last earlier this month.

According to Volker, Surkov "reverted to Russia’s initial proposal in September to deploy UN peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine along the line currently separating Ukrainian government forces and the Russia-backed separatists."

The website reported that Surkov "told reporters after the meeting that Volker had presented 29 separate paragraphs to the Russians and that (he) had agreed with just three of them."

In September, Russia suggested deploying UN peacekeepers along the line of separation, but this was quickly met with criticism from Kiev and the West, who said it could "cement Moscow's control over the territory held by pro-Russian separatists."

Volker previously said that the United States wanted peacekeepers to monitor the whole conflict area and secure the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Moscow, however, believes that, as speculated, 20,000 "blue helmets" in Ukraine's east would effectively be turned into an occupation force, after which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would not fulfill any of his promises and obligations.

In his interview for Politico, Volker said there was "at least 80 percent" likelihood of "active fighting" continuing in Ukraine within a year - but added that there were also are “glimmers of hope" suggesting Putin "might actually be ready to find a way out of the impasse in eastern Ukraine, given that fighting has more or less stalled and he faces tough US and European sanctions because of the Ukraine incursion."

Although US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants to improve relations with Russia, Volker said he had Trump's support for his position, blaming Moscow for "occupying Ukraine."

Trump, Volker said, gets it.

“I know, having heard from the president directly on this, he wants to do this. He wants to make peace; he wants to see this resolved; he wants to see Ukraine get its territory back. It’s crystal clear," said the envoy.


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