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EU Officials Controversial About Future of Ukraine Trade Deal

RIA Novosti

23:00 15/12/2013

MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) – European officials gave controversial statements about the future of a trade and cooperation agreement with Ukraine on Sunday.

EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele said on Sunday European Union has put on hold its work with Ukraine on the agreement.

The Ukrainian government's arguments "have no grounds in reality," Fuele said on Twitter. The remarks come after Fuele's talks with Ukraine's first deputy prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov last week in Brussels.

'After that further discussion is conditioned on clear commitment to sign. Work on hold, had no answer,' Fuele said.

However, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said later in the day that Ukraine was free to sign the agreement at any time.

"The door is wide open for Ukraine to sign association and free trade agreement with EU. It's ready. Any time," he said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, who visited the rallies in Kyiv on Saturday, said the Ukrainian president will have to offer explanations about his Friday's statement that the deal was "to the detriment of Ukraine's national interests."

"Of course, the EU is always ready [to sign the agreement], as we've said many times before," Linkevicius said. "But, of course, we need explanations. It would be illogical to prepare for the signing of an agreement that, according to one of the parties, damages its national interests."

Two members of the European parliament, Elmar Brok and Rebecca Harms, told protestors in Kiev on Sunday that parliamentarians have adopted a resolution that confirms Europe's readiness for closer cooperation with Ukraine.

"Our message to you is very simple: doors to the association with Europe remain open for Ukraine," said Brok, who chairs the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's spokesman Vitaliy Lukyanenko said the Ukrainian government remains committed to signing the agreement.

Kiev "would take into account only official statements on behalf of the European Union and will respond only to such statements," Lukyanenko said.

"For today, the official European Union stance remains unchanged: the door to the association with EU remains open," he said.

Kiev turned its back on a widely expected association deal last month, saying it would harm economic relations with Russia, prompting mass demonstrations by pro-EU protesters and throwing the country into a political crisis. Last Wednesday, Azarov said Kiev would return to talks on the association agreement with the EU in the spring.

Both the EU and Moscow have accused the other of using strong-arm tactics to secure economic ties with Kiev.

A senior Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov said on Sunday that "Yanukovych and Azarov had all reasons to reject the agreement.

"The meagre [aid] package proposed by the EU to Ukraine is nothing for any normal country. It's an attempt to colonize Ukraine for 660 million euro [$907 million]," he said.

Pushkov, who heads the State Duma's international affairs committee, said Fuele's words demonstrated intentions by certain European politicians to have Yanukovych removed from his post.

"Previously, Yanukovych was considered as a possible partner in [association] talks, but now he is seen as an evident political rival, who must be pushed into resigning," Pushkov said.

He described Fuele's statement as a possible sign that a group of European politicians who had taken a harsh stance against Yanukovych and his government, has prevailed over those in favor of additional financial assistance to encourage Ukraine to sign the deal.

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