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Germany on Friday told Ukraine that the "window of opportunity" for integration with the European Union could close, as Kiev seeks a solution to the case of jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko that has held up the signing of an association deal.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, wrapping up a two-day visit to Kiev, said he believed Ukraine understood the time pressure as the clock ticks down to a key summit at the end of November.
"My impression is that all those in Ukraine understand the seriousness of the situation and have recognised the time pressure," Westerwelle said.
"We still have an opened window of opportunity, and it is not to be excluded that this window of opportunity could also once again close."
"There is still a way to go in the political and legal questions that need to be cleared up," said Westerwelle, who on his visit met President Viktor Yanukovych as well as Tymoshenko's daughter Yevgenia.
Tymoshenko's continued incarceration risks impeding the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius at the end of November, seen as a first step towards joining the 28-nation bloc.
Westerwelle reaffirmed that an offer to treat Tymoshenko for medical problems in Germany -- a possible solution to the standoff -- remained on the table.
Tymoshenko was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in jail on abuse of power charges that the EU fears were politically motivated.
Westerwelle said that the offer to treat Tymoshenko in Germany had been received "very positively" but gave no hint that his trip had secured an immediate breakthrough.
Tymoshenko, an opposition leader who was a prime protagonist in the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, contends her jailing was political revenge ordered by Yanukovych to eliminate a dangerous opponent ahead of the 2015 presidential polls.
Last week, the special envoys of the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pat Cox, formally asked Yanukovych to allow Tymoshenko to be taken for treatment outside Ukraine.
In rare comments addressing the issue head on after talks with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, Yanukovych on Friday appeared to indicate that Kiev was aware of the urgency of the issue and a solution could be close.
"We are left so far with the most sensitive issue -- it is the case of Tymoshenko," said Yanukovych.
"But the mission of Cox-Kwasniewski is still working, we are working together, we are looking for ways and I hope that in the near future, we will finally decide in what way to solve this issue."