EU chair Latvia says Russia 'more open' to Ukraine solution08 january 2015, 14:27
Latvia, which has taken over the rotating EU presidency, on Wednesday said Russia seemed more open to a negotiated solution over the conflict in Ukraine, raising the prospect of an easing of sanctions against Moscow, AFP reports.
"There is a kind of an opening we can use," said Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, adding that Russia's economy was suffering from the fallout of Western sanctions combined with falling oil prices.
Rinkevics, who will travel to Kiev and Moscow in the coming days, said he saw "signals there is a certain kind of willingness on the Russian side to work more closely" with the European Union.
"If (the) situation improves in eastern Ukraine, we would certainly support a softening of sanctions," he said.
Rinkevics cited Russia's control over its border with Ukraine and the flow of weapons to separatist areas as areas where the EU awaited improvements.
"We have to be flexible," he added. "If we see progress we have to act accordingly. If no, there is no reason to lift sanctions."
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at peace talks in Kazakhstan on January 15 that will also be attended by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
European nations are set to review the economic sanctions against Moscow in the coming weeks. Any changes to the punitive measures require the unanimous approval of all 28 member states.
French President Francois Hollande said Monday that biting Western sanctions against Russia "must be lifted if there is progress" in resolving the Ukraine crisis.
"The only method is to negotiate," Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told a press conference in Riga on Wednesday, stressing it was the only way "to stop this nonsense, this madness".