Ukrainian separatist rebels have agreed to take part in further peace talks on Friday to end the conflict in Ukraine's eastern regions, Interfax news agency said on Thursday.
“There is an agreement to hold a round of consultations on June 27 in Donetsk,” Andrei Purgin, a senior figure in the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted as saying.
Earlier, speaking in Strasbourg, France, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he had just heard of the rebels' readiness to meet again with the so-called “contact group” which includes former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Moscow's envoy to Kyiv and a high-ranking official from the OSCE security and rights watchdog.
But Ukrainian media quoted him as hinting heavily that there would be no extension of a government cease-fire, which officially ends at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, unless Kyiv was satisfied with the results of Friday's talks.
“It (Friday) is a very important day: if our conditions for the peace plan are not accepted, then we will make a very important decision,” he was quoted as saying by Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper.
Poroshenko, who was speaking at the Council of Europe on Thursday and will sign a landmark free trade agreement with the European Union in Brussels on Friday, has offered rebel fighters an amnesty and safe conduct out of the country if they lay down their arms and cease hostilities.
He is also offering to people in the mainly Russian-speaking east broader Russian-language rights and will next week present a decentralization plan aimed at allowing the regions more control over their own finances and affairs.