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Europe

EU still hopes Ukraine will sign trade deal

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-23

The EU is still holding out hope that Ukraine will soon sign a landmark trade deal with the 28-member block despite preparations being put on hold as Kiev sends mixed signals about its willingness to cooperate.

The European Union is still holding out hope that Ukraine will sign a landmark trade deal with the 28-member block at a summit next week, saying Ukraine's announcement that it would instead  halt  preparations and  restore ties with Russia had not yet been delivered through official channels.

“No, we have not fully given up as we were not actually officially informed by the Ukrainian side that the signature is impossible at Vilnius,” the EU’s enlargement chief Stefan Fuele told news agency Reuters. If the deal is not signed at an EU summit with eastern European countries in Lithuania on November 28-29, Fuele said, he hopes it can be signed at an EU-Ukraine summit next year.

The remarks were made on Friday, as Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich, who was on a visit to Vienna,  assured Austrian officials that his country wants to keep close ties with Europe.

A spokesman with Austria’s Foreign Ministry said the Ukrainians "have told us that they haven’t turned their back on Europe but they want to continue close cooperation”.

“They said that they didn’t call it quits,” he said, after the leaders of the two countries had met.

The chain of events has infuriated Russia, with President Vladimir Putin accusing the EU of practising "blackmail" by pressuring the ex-Soviet nation over its decision. The  trade pact would have wrested Ukraine out of from Moscow’s orbit.

Ukraine was initially scheduled to sign the pact at an EU summit with eastern European countries in Lithuania on November 28-29. On Thursday, it said it had stopped the preparations after lawmakers failed to agree on legislation that would free jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key condition of the EU. Ukraine said it planned to revive talks on a deal with Russia instead.

A conclusion of the Association Agreement - which was seen as a first step to eventual EU membership - would have solidified Kiev’s break from Moscow, which had warned of consequences for its own trade with Ukraine if the EU deal was signed.

On Friday, Tymoshenko called on people to take to the streets to to protest against the government’s decision not to sign the deal with the EU.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-11-23

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