EU nations issue 'urgent' appeal to Ukraine on Tymoshenko

EU nations issue 'urgent' appeal to Ukraine on Tymoshenko

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
EU nations issue urgent appeal to Ukraine on Tymoshenko

The EU, which sees Tymoshenko as the victim of a political trial, is pressing Yanukovich to end the stand-off. AP photo

European Union foreign ministers Nov. 18 issued an "urgent appeal" to Ukraine for action on jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko to enable the signature of a key free trade deal with the EU.

"It is an urgent appeal to Ukraine to act now," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as he joined talks with his 27 EU counterparts. "Time is running out." Ukraine and the EU are set to sign a deal in the Lithuanian capital November 28-29 marking a first step towards entry into the bloc -- but only on condition Kiev meets basic principles, including a fair judicial system.

Crucial to that is for Ukraine's parliament to pass legislation allowing Tymoshenko to go abroad for treatment and to clarify the conditions of her return -- whether and when she can return to the political arena.

But concern has mounted over the fate of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement after Ukraine's parliament failed on Friday to agree a text that would have enabled prisoners such as Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad.

EU nations have criticised the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, her arch rival, of practising selective justice against its opponents.

"Everything is in the hands of President Yanukovych," said Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt as he joined the Monday meeting. "We have a policy, I'm not quite certain he's got a policy." The Ukraine parliament meets from Tuesday, meaning "there is still time" for a deal, said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.

The issue would be high on the agenda of the talks, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"They know what they have to deliver and they know they have to complete the benchmarks," she said. "They need to deal with the issues of selective justice. Today we'll take stock." Ukraine is under heavy pressure from Moscow to refrain from entering the EU orbit and to instead join its own Customs Union.