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Ukraine Peace Talks Close Without Deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Dec. 9, 2014.

Talks between Ukrainian government negotiators and their pro-Russian separatist counterparts have failed to produce any breakthrough to end the eight-month conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Separatist leaders were quoted as saying Thursday that the only tangible result of the talks in Belarus this week was an agreement on the terms of a prisoner exchange of about 400 fighters.

Peace efforts have also involved Russian officials and mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The aim is to solidify a September cease-fire that has reduced the fighting.

The Kyiv parliament's renunciation of Ukraine's neutral status this week as a step towards joining NATO has outraged Moscow and deepened the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Speaking on state television Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Ukraine's desire for NATO membership poses a danger to European security.

Lavrov said that some Western countries want to use Kyiv's NATO bid to maintain the crisis in Ukraine and fuel confrontation between Ukraine and Russia.

NATO increased its military presence in Eastern Europe this year due to Russia’s support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has continuously denied supporting the rebellion.

Portions of this report are from Reuters; some information comes from AFP.

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