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EU's Ashton calls for dialogue to end Ukraine crisis, offers aid for reform

Source: Reuters - Wed, 5 Feb 2014 16:56 GMT
Author: Reuters
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KIEV, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The European Union's foreign policy chief urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday to sort out violence on the streets and called for efforts across the political spectrum to pursue dialogue to move Ukraine out of crisis.

Catherine Ashton told a news conference after she met opposition leaders and Yanukovich separately in Kiev that the EU was ready to help Ukraine in many ways, both financially and with expertise, to improve its long-term economic development and help with possible changes to its constitutional set-up.

Speaking of the sometimes violent confrontation between the authorities and opposition since November, Ashton said she believed a "Ukrainian-led process" of compromise and reform was possible.

But, suggesting frustration at the lack of real compromise between the authorities and the opposition, she added: "What I really need to feel is a growing sense of momentum on this. I think that that is where we need to see more work."

Asked about recent suggestions by herself and U.S. officials that Washington and the EU were considering offering aid to Ukraine, she said: "In terms of economic support, this is not just about the EU nor about large dollops of money."

It also, she said, concerned "the kind of support, including expertise, technical ability, resources that can be given, the role of institutions internationally, the role of the EU member states".

"It's about how do you pull together an economic package that would provide for the clear economic needs of the country in the context of economic reform," she said.

In a statement, she expressed "great concern" at continuing violence on the streets - a theme which she later said she had spent some time discussing with Yanukovich.

At least six people have died since protests broke out in November after Yanukovich turned down an EU trade deal and the former Soviet republic turned instead to Russia for aid.

Ashton said there was "a great need for those who have committed violence to be brought to justice" and said the EU was willing to support a transparent and independent process to that end.

The authorities blame violence on hardline opponents. Opposition leaders, who have considerable support within the EU, blame riot police as well as squads of pro-government thugs they say are behind beatings, abductions and other intimidation. (Reporting by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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