Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

United States to maintain Russian Federation sanctions until it withdraws from Ukraine, Tillerson says

United States to maintain Russian Federation sanctions until it withdraws from Ukraine, Tillerson says

Foreign ministers from the 57-member OSCE met in Vienna on Thursday with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia's Sergei Lavrov set to discuss a possible United Nations peacekeeping force for Ukraine.

Speaking before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of a three-country, four-day European trek, Tillerson criticized Russian Federation for violating a ceasefire agreement and for denying it has armed and funded separatists in the Ukraine for the last four years, according to Reuters.

President Donald Trump campaigned on the need to improve ties with Russia, Tillerson said in Vienna, adding that "normalizing" the relationship was something the USA still "badly would like to do".

Tillerson also stood in unity with Europe to maintain sanctions placed against the Russian economy and businessmen by former President Barack Obama, who added even more sanctions last December over Russia's meddling in the US election.

In principle, both Moscow and Washington have now expressed support for the idea of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to end the war between Kiev's government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

"But the issue that stands in the way is Ukraine", he stressed, after a morning ministerial meeting at which he and Lavrov had expressed starkly different views. Russian Federation denies accusations that it fomented the conflict and provided arms and fighters. "Russian Federation is arming, leading, training and fighting alongside anti-government forces", he said. "We call on Russian Federation and its proxies to end its harassment, intimidation and its attacks on the OSCE special monitoring mission".

He and Lavrov met on the sidelines of the conference, though both ignored reporters' questions when the meeting began.

"We can have difference in other arenas. but when one country invades another that is a difference that is hard to look past or to reconcile", he warned. We get progress, that's what we get.

In his speech, he referred to the 2015 Minsk ceasefire agreement, brokered in the Belarussian capital by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

These are the key steps, the U.S. official said.

He also made clear that Washington did not accept Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

The U.S. has decried Moscow's military involvement in eastern Ukraine, where it has backed pro-Russia separatists, and its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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