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EU says to sign Ukraine association pact before elections

EU leaders agreed Thursday to sign an association accord with Ukraine before the ex-Soviet state holds elections in May, European Union president Herman Van Rompuy said after an emergency summit on the crisis. Van Rompuy said the 28 leaders reiterated the EU's commitment to signing the pact, whose rejection by pro-Russian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych triggered the protests that swept him from power last month. "We decided that as a matter of priority we will sign very shortly the political chapters" of the accord, he said.

Ukraine PM Yatsenyuk to meet EU leaders Thursday in Brussels

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will meet EU leaders Thursday ahead of an emergency summit the same day on the crisis in his country, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said. EU leaders "will discuss situation in Ukraine with PM Yatsenyuk in Brussels Thursday prior to extraordinary summit," Van Rompuy said in a Tweeted message Tuesday. EU foreign ministers on Monday condemned Russia's "acts of aggression" in the Ukraine and warned that ties were at risk unless Moscow reversed course and took steps to de-escalate the crisis by Thursday's summit.

Ukraine PM Yatsenyuk to meet EU leaders Thursday in Brussels: Van Rompuy

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will meet EU leaders Thursday ahead of an emergency summit the same day on the crisis in his country, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said. EU leaders "will discuss situation in Ukraine with PM Yatsenyuk in Brussels Thursday prior to extraordinary summit," Van Rompuy said in a Tweeted message Tuesday. bmm/rmb

Putin warns against further escalation of Ukraine unrest

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a rapid return to normality in Ukraine and warned against any further escalation of unrest, in telephone calls with key EU leaders, the Kremlin said. Putin emphasised "the extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence and the necessity of a rapid normalisation of the situation," the Kremlin said after Putin had separate phone calls with British premier David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union president Herman van Rompuy. sjw/am/mfp

Chinese pandas get red-carpet welcome in Belgium

Two giant pandas, on loan from China for the next 15 years, received a red carpet welcome in Belgium on Sunday where they were greeted by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. Hao Hao, a four-year-old female whose name means "Friendly", and Xing Hui ("Shining Star"), a male of the same age, landed around midday (1100 GMT) at Brussels airport after their journey in a pagoda-style cage onboard a cargo plane. Their plane, arriving after a 15-hour flight from Sichuan in southwest China, taxied into place through an arc of water from the hoses of Belgian firefighters.

EU says ready to do Ukraine trade deal once new government in place

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Sunday it was ready to conclude a trade deal with Ukraine once a new government was formed, and that it believed such a deal was in both parties' interests and would be signed. Ukraine's crisis began last year when President Viktor Yanukovich turned away from a proposed European Union trade deal in favor of closer ties with Russia, which promised to lend Kiev $15 billion and reduce the price of gas.

EU president says Ukraine rivals must turn 'words into deeds'

European Union president Herman van Rompuy welcomed an agreement signed Friday by Ukraine's leader and the opposition to end a deadly standoff but said it must be followed by concrete action. "The agreement is a necessary compromise in order to launch an indispensable political dialogue that offers the only democratic and peaceful way out of the crisis that has already caused too much suffering and bloodshed on all sides," he said in a statement. "It is now the responsibility of all parties to be courageous and turn words into deeds for the sake of Ukraine's future."

US-EU trade talks 'on track' but tough hurdles ahead

US-EU talks on a transatlantic free trade zone are moving ahead but still face their toughest challenge, cutting back regulatory differences, Europe's top negotiator Karel de Gucht said Tuesday. Eight months into negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), de Gucht, the European Union commissioner for trade, said he and his US counterpart agreed that "things are on track." "The consequence is that the next phase is going to be harder going. This is where real negotiations begin," he said.

US-EU trade talks 'on track' but tough hurdles ahead

US-EU talks on a transatlantic free trade zone are moving ahead but still face their toughest challenge, cutting back regulatory differences, Europe's top negotiator Karel de Gucht said Tuesday. Eight months into negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), de Gucht, the European Union commissioner for trade, said he and his US counterpart agreed that "things are on track." "The consequence is that the next phase is going to be harder going. This is where real negotiations begin," he said.

EU trade chief says U.S. tariff offer falls short in talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will need to improve its offer on cutting tariffs on European manufactured and farm goods as part of negotiations on a U.S.-European Union trade pact, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Tuesday. After two days of taking stock with his U.S. counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, De Gucht said talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were ready to step up to the next level but a lot of work remained.
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