Ukraine Compromise on the Table in Minsk
Published: August 26, 2014 (Issue # 1825)
After months of a bloody struggle over the fate of Ukraine, all sides in the conflict will attempt to initiate a tangible diplomatic resolution to the crisis during high-profile talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Tuesday, to be attended by the Russian and Ukrainian presidents as well as EU officials.
The summit is officially a meeting between Ukraine and the Moscow-led Customs Union that unites Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with high-ranking EU officials — including Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, as well as trade and energy commissioners — in attendance.
The Customs Union is a flagship foreign policy initiative of President Vladimir Putin, and its viability, according to most analysts, depends heavily on Ukraine's participation. The question of whether Ukraine should opt for a closer relationship with the Customs Union or move forward with integration into the European Union was what largely sparked the crisis that has seen relations between Russia and the West plummet to a post-Cold War low.
The Minsk talks present the first opportunity for Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to hold formal discussions about the conflict, which has already claimed thousands of lives across Ukraine, displaced tens of thousands more and devastated the country's economy.
"During this meeting, if it happens, we expect to have a frank conversation on the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and humanitarian situation," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax.
"It is difficult to expect the presidents to discuss all questions on the agenda," he said.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference Monday that the agenda for the Minsk meetings had not yet been set.
"A number of bilateral meetings is planned to take place in Minsk. Who will meet whom will be announced later," Lavrov told journalists.
The Cost of Conflict
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