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Swiss-Russian talks Putin embraces OSCE peace plan

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter says Russia is prepared to “fully” accept the peace plan for Ukraine put forth by the Swiss-led Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Putin and Burkhalter met in Vienna  to discuss the Ukraine crisis

(Keystone)

Following a meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vienna on Tuesday, Burkhalter said the major goals of the peace plan includea continued ceasefire ultimately leading to a truce between the warring parties.

But both he and Putin agree that a ceasefire alone won’t solve the larger issues behind the conflict and would simply represent the beginning of a political dialogue.

Burkhalter, who also acts as Swiss president, underlined that not everything is “black and white” in the Ukraine crisis and that certain parties don’t necessarily want a truce.

Observers are needed to maintain a long-term ceasefire, so the OSCE will need more personnel. The foreign ministry has said that both Burkhalter and Putin would welcome Russian participation in such a mission.

Both leaders also agreed that a new round of dialogue with an OSCE-led contact group was necessary to start a political process leading to a truce. In a speech at OSCE headquartersexternal link in Vienna, Burkhalter stressed the importance of continuing those dialogues.

“The three round tables held prior to the elections demonstrated the potential of this [dialogue] approach,” he said. “Some of the issues discussed – including decentralisation, language and minority rights, and constitutional reform – reverberate in the Memorandum of Peace and Concord adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament, which provides a solid basis for further steps towards national unity.”

During their meeting, Putin also assured Burkhalter he would do what he could for the eight OSCE observers who were kidnapped by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine more than a month ago.

The issue of the Crimean peninsula, which was occupied by Russian forces in late February, did not come up during Burkhalter and Putin’s talks.

Instead, they focused on the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, including the shooting down of a military helicopter on Tuesday that killed nine Ukrainian soldiers. That incident threatened a shaky week-long cease-fire that had been repeatedly broken by sporadic clashes.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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