Tillerson says Ukraine is biggest obstacle to normal Russian Federation ties

Sergio Conner
December 7, 2017

The United States would "badly" like to lift sanctions against Russian Federation but will not do so until conflict in eastern Ukraine is resolved, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday, calling that the main obstacle to normal ties, Reuters reported.

"We have been clear with Russia that we can not return to business as usual in the NATO-Russia relations, as long as Russia continues its illegal occupation of Ukraine", he said at a press conference at NATO headquarters.

"Lavrov [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov], for example, spoke about the role of the OSCE that a possible peacekeeping mission in Donbas is actually a desire to create an occupation administration".

Tillerson made no mention on Thursday of Russia's efforts to meddle in the United States' 2016 presidential election, though he hinted at such activities a day earlier in Brussels, saying that Moscow's efforts to "undermine Western institutions" remained an obstacle to warmer ties with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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Referring to increasing ceasefire violations recorded by the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission, Tillerson said that "we should be clear about the source of this violence".

Lavrov also urged member states to consolidate efforts in the fight against drugs, two days after Russian Federation was banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had found evidence of "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.

While both sides have called for a United Nations peacekeeping force in eastern Ukraine, they disagree on the terms of its deployment, and there was no sign of progress at Thursday's meeting.

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