Kerry tells Russia to disarm Ukraine separatists 'in hours'

PARIS Thu Jun 26, 2014 9:18am EDT

1 of 2. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels June 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia on Thursday to disarm separatists in Ukraine within "the next hours" as the European Union prepared to discuss deeper sanctions against Moscow.

Washington and other Western powers have stepped up pressure on Russia to take concrete action to defuse the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where a ceasefire between Russian-speaking rebels and government forces has appeared to be crumbling.

"We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they're moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate process," Kerry told reporters in Paris.

He added that EU leaders would discuss possible sanctions on Russia at their summit in Belgium on Friday.

Washington has said it also has new sanctions ready to go, but Kerry said the United States would prefer not to be in "sanctions mode" and wanted Russia to take action without pressure.

"We would like to see a cooperative effort between the United States, Europe and Russia and the Ukrainians," Kerry added.

Separatist rebellions erupted in eastern Ukraine in early April after street protests in Kiev toppled Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich, and Russia in turn annexed the Crimean peninsula. Eastern rebels have called for union with Russia. Moscow denies Western accusations that it has allowed fighters to cross into Ukraine along with heavy weapons to confront Ukrainian government forces.

The proposed next round of U.S. and EU sanctions would target Russia's financial, defense and high-tech industries, said U.S. officials.

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICTS

Kerry is on a tour of capitals in the Middle East and Europe to discuss Ukraine, as well as the threat to stability in the Middle East from conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

He will meet foreign ministers from the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Paris on Thursday. Earlier he met Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The rapid advance of Sunni militants across Iraq threatens to split the country and bring more turmoil into a region already hit by the civil war in Syria.

Kerry travels to Saudi Arabia on Friday for talks with King Abdullah in Jeddah. The United States and Saudi Arabia have both been alarmed by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, in Iraq.

U.S. officials have said Kerry will also discuss the possibility of disruptions to global oil supplies from the Iraq crisis during his meetings in Paris and Jeddah.

Brent crude held steady near $114 a barrel on Thursday as traders watched for possible oil supply disruptions. Iraq's southern oilfields, which produce most of the nation's 3.3 million barrels a day, remain safe although the conflict has hit the Baiji refinery in the north.

(Editing by Mark John and Nicholas Vinocur)

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Comments (39)
Hahahappy wrote:
Did you tell the Russians or you just expect them to read Reuters??

Jun 26, 2014 5:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jrpardinas wrote:
If Washington’s European flunkies are allowed to conquer militarily an ethnic Russian population on Russia’s very doorstep, there’s no telling what they’ll come to believe they can do next.

My guess is they’ll get the notion they can take on Russia itself. West Europeans have a proven talent for self-destruction. Now they have the Americans egging them on. And why not? No skin off American noses if Europe descends into armed chaos. One less global business competitor for the USA.

East Ukraine is where Russia needs to stop NATO.

Jun 26, 2014 7:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
CanRus wrote:
Oh my! The anti-West pro-Putin cheerleaders have been laying the nonsense on thick for the past two days. Maybe you should go easy on the vodka, guys. Or are your Kremlin bosses getting desperate?

Jun 26, 2014 8:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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