BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union, Russia and Ukraine did not reach a deal at three-way trade talks in Brussels on Tuesday but agreed to keep talking after the latest effort to overcome Moscow’s opposition to an EU-Ukraine trade pact that takes effect in a month.
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Moscow would scrap preferential trade rules for Ukraine if technical talks make no headway before year’s end.
“Russia, Ukraine and the EU have not reached an agreement,” Ulyukayev said following talks with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. “It is a very probable scenario that there will not be an agreement before Jan. 1.”
The European Commission said in a statement that technical talks would continue.
Malmstrom said she was willing to continue talks into the new year to address concrete concerns that Russia had on technical issues surrounding its trade with Ukraine. But that was on condition that Moscow does not impose sanctions on Kiev, she stressed.
Acknowledging that the talks are just one part of a complex “political” confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine, Malmstrom told reporters she detected a “constructive” Russian tone towards the end of the meeting but stressed there would be no delay or amendment to the EU-Ukraine pact.
“The clock is ticking very, very fast and ... on Jan. 1 the DCFTA will enter into force,” she said, referring to the treaty.
Ukrainian wavering over whether to sign the EU trade accord in 2013 fuelled protests that toppled its then-president, the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovich, leading to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and a revolt by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russia opposes the Ukraine-EU deal, saying it could lead to a flood of European imports across its borders, and has threatened to introduce trade restrictions on Kiev if it implements the pact before addressing Moscow’s concerns.
Ukraine has said that two years of confrontation has already slashed the volume of its trade with Russia, making it less vulnerable to sanctions.
Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Julia Fioretti and Alastair Macdonald