US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Ukrainian opposition figures for talks on Friday on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, a senior State Department official said.
Washington has welcomed talks in recent days between President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition to end two months of protests sparked by Yanukovich’s decision to reject an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties and a financial bailout from Russia.
Kerry will meet with Arseny Yatsenyuk, a former economy minister and leader of the party of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko; former boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, who leads the Udar (Punch) party; Petro Poroshenko, a member of parliament; and Ukrainian pop star Ruslana Lyzhychko.
Yanukovich and opposition leaders agreed in talks on Monday to repeal recently passed anti-protest laws, a key demand of the opposition. The government also said that prisoners detained by police in the months of unrest should be granted amnesty, although the proposal was rejected by the opposition after Yanukovich made it conditional on protesters relinquishing control of the buildings they have occupied in Kiev and elsewhere.
In another concession to protester demands, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Tuesday amid calls by the opposition for him to step down.
Ukraine’s presidency announced on Thursday that Yanukovich had taken ill. “The president of Ukraine has been officially registered as sick, with an acute respiratory ailment and a high temperature,” a statement on the presidential website said.
The State Department official said the US was “cautiously optimistic” about the negotiations, adding that the talks would focus on ways to restore calm and relaunch the political process in Ukraine, including plans to form a new government.
Kerry will also meet Germany’s new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday followed by talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is Kerry’s first meeting with Merkel since leaked documents last year revealed Washington had been spying on EU citizens and bugged Merkel’s personal mobile phone.
Kerry will also meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, who he asked this week to step up pressure on Damascus to give up its chemical weapons. The United States on Thursday accused Syria of dragging its feet in giving up its chemical arsenal, saying that just 4 percent of its deadliest chemical agents had been shipped out of the country under a UN agreement.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has just led a round of Syria talks in Geneva aimed at ending the country’s civil war, will also meet with Kerry.
A meeting between Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to focus on an upcoming round of talks with Iran that could lead to a definitive settlement to a decade-old nuclear standoff. Talks between six world powers and Iran are expected to start in the next few weeks.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-31