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Diplomacy Around Ukraine Situation Suggests Forward Motion

July 10, 2017 (EIRNS)—In their joint press conference in Kiev yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Petro Poroshenko had tough words for Russia, both asserting that restoring Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity is a top priority—i.e. Crimea should go back to Ukraine—and placing the onus on Russia for taking necessary steps to "de-escalate the situation in Eastern Ukraine," respect the ceasefire, pull back heavy weapons, etc.

Tillerson reported that the naming of a special envoy to Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, was due to U.S. "disappointment" over progress under the Minsk accords, and emphasized that U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia will remain in place "until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered these particular actions."

Despite the tough talk, however, there are signs that the diplomatic process may be shifting, in the aftermath of the Trump-Putin summit in Hamburg. According to the Kyiv Post, Poroshenko reported that Ambassador Volcker will remain in Kiev for several days to resolve issues of bilateral cooperation. and said he hoped this appointment would speed up implemenation of the Minsk accords. Tillerson underscored that the Trump administration will be coordinating carefully with the Normandy Four members—Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France—and with Poroshenko and the Russian Federation directly "to see if we cannot make progress in a more prompt fashion as well."

Responding to a question, Poroshenko reported that a Normandy Four phone conference is expected to take place this month, after which a summit may be organized.

"We are hopeful for a decisive and speedy, practical, concrete talk in the phone conversation, as well as during this summit this very summer,"

he said. Ukraine, he added, "is not interested in delaying these negotiations," and it is hoped "that we will be able to ensure implementation of the security component of the Minsk agreement."

Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that yesterday, an action plan for resolving the situation in Donbass was discussed in Kiev. Tillerson and Volker briefed Poroshenko on meetings in Hamburg, and "probably a real plan for ending the war in Donbass has been worked out and already exists," according to political analyst Igor Garbaruk. Anonymous sources told the Russian daily that the plan envisions compromise on both sides—that both will stop shooting first and withdraw forces, and then other aspects of the Minsk accord can be implemented more gradually.