MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - The first results of the multilateral talks in Minsk, attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, as well as European Union officials, have been deemed positive; several issues were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine, gas issues, the Russian food embargo and others.
Speaking on the situation in the troubled eastern regions of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko suggested that the parties accept his peace plan, which he believes will help bring an end to the bloodshed and rebuild the Donbas region.
“I'm convinced that this plan remains a viable and practical instrument for bringing an end to the bloodshed and rebuilding the Donbas region after the conflict. In this regard, I call on all of the participants of today’s meeting to consider the possibility of making this plan a basis for settling the Donbas crisis,” Poroshenko said.
Despite differences in attitude to the crisis in Ukraine, all participants of the Customs Union-Ukraine-EU meeting agreed that the crisis should be de-escalated in a non-violent manner, and said the captives should be released.
“Everybody agrees that de-escalation is needed and that the hostages should be released,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.
Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that about 1,000 people were being held captive by the militia in eastern Ukraine. The authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic announced that about the same number of independence supporters were unaccounted for.
Russia expressed its willingness to do everything possible to ensure the progress of a peace process in Ukraine and to stop the bloodshed in the country.
“Russia will do everything possible for this peace process once it starts. This process must be launched as soon as possible,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
The sides are also said to have agreed to cooperate on Russia’s delivery of humanitarian aid to the citizens of eastern Ukraine.
“We discussed the possibility and necessity of rendering humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Luhansk, and agreed on the ways we are to cooperate on this issue. I do not want to jump ahead but certain agreements have been reached,” Putin said.
It was added that a meeting of the contact group for Ukrainian reconciliation, involving Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), may take place in Minsk on Wednesday. Moscow and Kiev have also agreed to intensify the work of the trilateral group for the implementation of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.
According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have also reached an agreement to continue three-party talks on gas issues that took place between mid-April and June without any results. The European Union expressed no concern about the gas supplies being potentially interrupted by Ukrainian authorities in light of a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament which allows Kiev to impose more than 20 different types of sanctions against Russia, including a possible ban on the transit of Russian energy resources through its territory.
Novak noted that Russia did not consider the possibility of European customers purchasing Russian gas on the Russian-Ukrainian border and had no plans to review its contract with Ukraine for the transit of gas to Europe.
“We have not discussed this today...but our position is as follows: the transit contract is in force until 2019 and it cannot be reviewed at least until that time," the energy minister said.
The talks on energy issues involving the energy ministers from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union will be held on September 6.
The Minsk talks also touched upon the Russian ban of food imports from Western countries and the issue of embargoed goods being actively shipped to Moscow via Belarus.
“Even within the framework of the Customs Union, embargoed goods are being actively re-imported to the Russian Federation from European Union countries, namely via Belarus,” the Russian president said.
Moscow said it would lift its food embargo when Russia’s national security was no longer threatened. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich pointed out that Russia had to impose the embargo to make its Western partners think twice before imposing any anti-Russian measures.
Russia expressed hopes that the Western countries would respect the measures Moscow was taking to protect its economy.
“Our partners should weigh all options and make a decision… We will treat any choice our European colleagues make with respect, Ukrainian partners. We hope that they will also respect our measures, which are aimed at protecting our interests,” Putin said.
So far, Moscow has positively evaluated the Customs Union-Ukraine-EU meeting in the Belarusian capital. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton has also given a positive assessment of the talks. Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that the participants of the Minsk talks had had a candid dialogue and considered the meeting positive, stressing that the sides had held an open exchange of opinions on a range of issues.
The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took place in Minsk and lasted for two hours. After that, Poroshenko planned on meeting with EU representatives in the Ukrainian embassy. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, the European Commission Vice-President in charge of energy, Guenther Oettinger, and the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, are among the participants of the Minsk meeting.