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Georgia, Moldova ink deals with EU, Ukraine refuses

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BRUSSELS, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) on Friday signed association agreements with Georgia and Moldova, but failed to ink a landmark deal with Ukraine in its drive to boost ties with six ex-Soviet states, according to news reports reaching here.

Ukraine, the largest of the six, was due to sign a partnership agreement with the EU at the two-day EU Eastern Partnership Summit, which kicked off Thursday in Lithuanian capital Vilnius. But it suddenly suspended the deal last Thursday, opting for closer trade ties with Russia.

The political and trade agreements with the EU initialled by Georgia and Moldova mark the end of negotiations to strengthen mutual ties, but will still need to be officially signed to come into effect, hopefully within the next year.

"The Ukrainian president is not ready to go further into integration with the European Union," Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania -- which currently holds the rotating EU presidency -- said earlier.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has reportedly requested more financial aid from the EU and suggested forming a tripartite trade commission with Russia and the EU.

The 28-nation bloc said it was not ready to enter into a geo-political bargaining game over Ukraine, likely a reference to the possible increased financial aid. It also refused the proposed trilateral trade talks.

However, some chance of agreement remains as the EU has tentatively scheduled a bilateral summit with Ukraine in late winter or early spring.

French President Francois Hollande said the partnership remained open, but "it is up to the Ukrainians first to want it."

Yanukovych's decision to suspend the deal with the EU has aroused discontent at home. Several thousand demonstrators gathered in central Kiev and other big cities demanding the signing of the deal.

Analysts believe Yanukovych is playing both sides as his presence at the EU gathering -- without signing the agreement -- indicates he does not want to ruin relations with the EU and leave his country's economic future solely to Russia.

Russia denied that it had put pressure on Ukraine over the latter's association agreement with the EU, slamming criticism from the EU.

The Eastern Partnership was jointly initiated by the EU, its member states and the Eastern European partner countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in May 2009.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/131129/georgia-moldova-ink-deals-eu-ukraine-refuses