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Top International Diplomats Meet in Protest-Hit Kiev

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and Prime Minister Mykola AzarovUkrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and Prime Minister Mykola AzarovSenior diplomats from dozens of countries gathered Thursday in the Ukrainian capital for a summit playing out against the backdrop of persisting large demonstrations calling for the government's ouster and early elections, reports.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who traveled to Kiev for the opening of the long-planned Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting, visited opposition politicians rallying on the city's Independence Square on Wednesday, in a move that may irritate Ukrainian officials.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is not attending the OSCE summit, but he did make a visit Wednesday to the tiny ex-Soviet country of Moldova, which, unlike Ukraine, signed off on integration with the EU at a landmark conference in Lithuania last week. The UK and French Foreign Ministers will also not be attending, Bloomberg reported.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych cited Ukraine's parlous economic state as being behind the decision not to pursue an association agreement and free trade pact with the EU. He has instead called for closer ties with Moscow.

Anger over the move to back away from closer ties with the EU has evolved into broader set of demands from the street-based opposition movement, which has been calling for Yanukovych to step aside.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who has been a fierce critic of perceived Russian pressure on Ukraine, said on his Twitter account from the summit’s opening meeting that the OSCE was “not the main event in town.”

Germany's Westerwelle expressed more measured views on unfolding developments.

“We are absolutely not indifferent to the fate of Ukraine,” Westerwelle told reporters after his visit to Independence Sqaure. “The gates of the European Union are still open.”

In an interview published Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara warned against foreign delegations in Kiev encouraging demonstrators.

“From various European capitals there are calls on Ukraine’s opposition to protest further,” he told Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. “Instead of invigorating the protesters, they should be facilitating dialogue so that nothing dangerous happens.”

Protests in the Ukrainian capital appeared to have waned since the weekend when hundreds of thousands of people flooded the center of Kiev to call for the resignation of the government. Violent clashes later broke out between riot police and a mob that attempted to storm the presidential administration.

The EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the OSCE have all condemned the violence.

“The OSCE remains available – and so am I personally – to help to foster dialogue between all sides in the present situation,” OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said in a statement Wednesday.

While he apologised for police violence, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said earlier this week that protests bore the hallmarks of a coup and warned that his government has enough available force to restore order.

December 5 2013, 16:13

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