Tillerson: Ukraine - biggest obstacle to normal Russian Federation ties

Doubts about Washington hinder North Korea deal Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held up the Ukraine crisis Thursday as the sole issue keeping the United States and Russian Federation from forging a closer relationship, arguing that all other disputes are secondary.

Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Tillerson went even further in spelling out Russia's involvement in the conflict and the consequences it faced than he had the day before when he met North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies in Brussels.

"The issue that stands in the way is Ukraine", Tillerson said.

But Western powers, led by the United States, want a force with a robust mandate that would allow it to protect the 600 OSCE monitors there, police ceasefire lines and investigate ceasefire breaches across eastern Ukraine.

"We call on Russian Federation and its proxies to end the harassment, intimidation and its attacks on the OSCE special monitoring mission", he demanded.

The tough talk from Tillerson contrasts with President Donald Trump's language on the matter. USA intelligence agencies including the CIA and Federal Bureau of Investigation have concluded the Kremlin interfered in the election in an effort to help Trump and hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"We can have differences in other arenas, in Syria, we can have differences in other areas", he said.

In principle, both Moscow and Washington have now expressed support for the idea of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to end the war between Kiev's government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

"And Russia's continued use of hybrid warfare seeks to undermine Western institutions, and this stands as a significant obstacle to normalizing our relations, as well".

He stated Russian Federation should stick to the Minsk agreements, a pair of peace deals forged in 2014 and 2015 that have often broken down during the conflict.

"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.

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