ASTANA (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko struck a conciliatory tone on Friday in his comments on Russia and Moscow-backed rebels during his visit to Kazakhstan, the Kremlin’s ally in Central Asia.
“Few had believed this (but) we did our best and, as a result of our efforts, guns have been silent for more than two weeks and this gives grounds for cautious optimism with regard to the implementation of other parts of the Minsk agreements,” Poroshenko said at a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, referring to a ceasefire in Ukraine’s east.
Russia has adopted a more constructive tone in talks over Ukraine, according to diplomats involved in the discussion who say Russia has influence over separatist rebels.
“The pull-back of light equipment, tanks and mortars has begun,” he said, “which, I think, will help strengthen the fragile truce that has been achieved.”
Poroshenko said he also hoped to avert a trade embargo by Russia when Kiev’s free-trade agreement with the European Union takes effect in January.
Moscow has banned the import of food from the EU in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. It has said it is considering applying the same embargo to Ukraine.
But Poroshenko said the three sides were in talks on the matter: “I hope that, as a result, Russia’s government will cancel those planned restrictions.”
Nazarbayev, in turn, said Kazakhstan would supply coal and oil products to Ukraine, which could face energy shortages because of the disruption of coal supplies from the rebel-controlled eastern territories.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Ruth Pitchford