US SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY TO HOLD TALKS WITH UKRAINE’s OPPOSITION IN GERMANY

News Max on January 30, 2014, published a Thomson-Reuters report on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meeting key Ukrainian opposition figures on January 31 on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, a senior U.S. official said, his first meeting with some of the leaders of an anti-government uprising against President Viktor Yanukovich. Excerpts below:

Washington has welcomed talks in recent days between Yanukovich and the opposition groups to end two months of protests that began when Yanukovich rejected an EU trade deal in favor of closer ties and a financial bailout with Russia.

Among those attending the meeting with Kerry is 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 to repeal some anti-protest laws, a key demand by the opposition. The sides also agreed that prisoners detained by police in the unrest should be granted amnesty although Yanukovich has made this conditional on protesters relinquishing control of all premises and roads they seized.

In addition, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Tuesday after a sharp escalation in street unrest and calls by the opposition for him to step down.
The senior State Department said the U.S. was “cautiously optimistic” about the negotiations between the government and opposition.

Discussions with Kerry would focus on ways to restore calm and relaunch the political process in Ukraine, including plans to form a new government, according to the official.

Kerry has pressed Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov this week to step up pressure on Damascus to give up its chemical weapons. The United States 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.

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