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EU foreign ministers to discuss Ukraine crisis; CAR troop deployment

Mon, 10th Feb 2014 07:38


Brussels (Alliance News) - EU foreign ministers are due Monday to discuss efforts to help Ukraine out of its political crisis, with other items on the agenda to include EU troop deployments to the Central African Republic (CAR) and closer ties with Cuba.

The EU has engaged in increased diplomatic activity with Kiev, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from an association deal with the bloc in November in favour of closer ties to Russia.

In light of continuing political violence, the ministers' meeting in Brussels is likely to tackle possible sanctions on the Ukrainian government - which could include travel restrictions and asset freezes against key individuals - but EU sources say such measures are not likely at this stage.

"It would be naive to say that sanctions (aren't) an option," an EU diplomat said on the condition of anonymity. "But ... we don't see sanctions as being the key tool the EU has."

"The focus is on dialogue," said another diplomat.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Kiev last week for talks with Yanukovych and opposition leaders - her second such trip this year. She offered help with political reforms, while demanding that perpetrators of violence be brought to justice.

Ashton also stressed the importance of providing financial assistance to Ukraine's flagging economy under the right conditions. She said in an interview last week that Brussels and Washington are working on such a plan, although details remain unclear.

Ukraine is one of six former Soviet countries that the EU is seeking closer ties with. The ministers are also due to discuss ways to support Moldova and Georgia, which are both gearing up to sign association deals with the bloc later this year.

Following events in Ukraine, several EU members want to speed up the deals with Moldova and Georgia and "show more visibility" in partner countries, according to a senior EU official. Ideas could include easing visa rules or boosting student exchanges.

The ministers are also due Monday to prepare an EU troop deployment to CAR, where a bloody conflict between Christians and Muslims has claimed thousands of lives and displaced 1 million people in the last 13 months.

Around 500 European soldiers are due to help a 4,000-member African Union peacekeeping mission. They could arrive in Bangui by late February or early March, according to EU sources, although few countries have so far pledged troops.

The ministers are also due to give the go-ahead for a diplomatic shift in relations with Cuba, a communist state which has embarked on gradual reforms since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2008.

The EU wants to consolidate relations with the island, supporting the democratic reform process and encouraging respect for human rights.

Copyright dpa

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