Tillerson takes tough line on Russian Federation, open to peacekeepers

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"As we have done for decades, the United States will continue to maintain our straightforward, ironclad commitment to Article V. We will continue to work for the common defense and the preservation of peace called for in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation charter, and do so with confidence that our allies will continue to do the same" - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Tillerson, who met with representatives to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday, said that the Trump administration made clear to the Kremlin from the beginning that settling tensions in Ukraine would be a necessary to forging closer ties between the USA and Russian Federation.

"And we've made this clear to Russian Federation from the very beginning: That we must address Ukraine, it stands as the single most hard obstacle to us renormalizing relations".

But the major powers in the dispute are still far apart, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went so far as to declare that the stand-off over Ukraine was the single most important obstacle to warmer USA relations with Moscow.

Foreign ministers from the 57-member OSCE met in Vienna on Thursday with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia's Sergei Lavrov set to discuss a possible United Nations peacekeeping force for Ukraine.

But Russia envisions a limited force to simply protect the existing 600-strong group of unarmed OSCE observers, who are struggling to monitor a shaky ceasefire in a conflict that has already left 10,000 dead since 2014.

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In his speech to the gathering, Tillerson went even further in spelling out Russia's involvement in the conflict and the consequences it faced than he had the day before in Brussels.

Tillerson noted that more civilians were killed this year in eastern Ukraine than in 2016, and that ceasefire violations are up 60 percent.

"Deep concern is caused by violations of worldwide law, intervention in the internal affairs, including direct support for government coups, attempts at handling the existing problems by force and the use of unilateral illegitimate measures of coercion", he said.

"We prioritise ending the violence, that's our first priority, and to seek to do that we need to put a peacekeeping force in place", Tillerson said. "Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russian Federation returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine", he said.

Economic sanctions were placed on Russian Federation by then-US President Barack Obama in 2014 following the country's military action in Crimea and Ukraine.

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