22 November 2013
The European Union (EU) expressed "disappointment" on Thursday over Ukraine's decision to suspend negotiations with the bloc on a landmark political and trade agreement due for signature next week.
"This is a disappointment not just for the EU but, we believe, for the people of Ukraine," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, the Ukrainian government announced that it would suspend negotiations with the EU and renew "active dialogue" with Russia.
Kiev's sudden turnaround came just one week before EU's third Eastern Partnership summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. At the summit, the EU and Ukraine were expected to sign the association agreement that would deepen Ukraine's access to the European market. However, Russia has warned of sanctions should Ukraine intensify relations with the EU.
Ashton said the signing of the agreement "would have provided a unique opportunity to reverse the recent discouraging trend of decreasing foreign direct investment in Ukraine and would have given momentum to negotiations on a new standby arrangement with the IMF."
"We believe that the future for Ukraine lies in a strong relationship with the EU and we stand firm in our commitment to the people of Ukraine who would have been the main beneficiaries" due to "enhanced freedom and prosperity", the statement concluded.
In a separate statement, the European Parliament's two special envoys, former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski also expressed "deep disappointment at the unilateral decision" by Kiev.
They took note of the Ukrainian government's remarks "on the stressed state of the economy and the dramatically increased pressure from Russia in recent weeks."
"The time-out formula now decided by the Ukrainian authorities is not without clear downside risks, is likely to last for considerable time and the process, if and when renewed, will be complicated by the decision made today," they said.