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Head of pan-European body to hold Kiev talks

Last Updated: Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 01:16

Strasbourg: Council of Europe chief Thorbjoern Jagland and Austria`s foreign minister will travel to Kiev Monday for "high-level" talks with the country`s interim leaders, the pan-European body said.

The council will offer Ukraine human rights advice, notably in dealing with minorities, and can also help in setting up an international panel to monitor probes into violence that has rocked the country, said Jagland`s spokesman Daniel Hoeltgen.

The Strasbourg-based organisation can also give the country`s new Western-backed authorities legal advice on new legislation, as well as constitutional and electoral reforms.

Hoeltgen did not say whether Jagland and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz would travel to mainly Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula where pro-Kremlin lawmakers are controversially planning a referendum on March 16 on joining Russia.

Austria currently presides over the 47-nation Council of Europe`s decision-making committee of ministers.

The visit was announced as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) -- another pan-European body which also includes the United States and Canada -- said that armed men had halted its convoy of military and civilian observers at a checkpoint as they tried to enter Crimea.

Russia said the OSCE observers had failed to obtain "official invitations" from the Crimean authorities.

Both Russia and Ukraine are members of the Council of Europe whose main objectives are the defence of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Jagland travelled to Ukraine in December to help ease tensions as tens of thousands protested against then president Viktor Yanukovych`s refusal to sign a landmark association accord with the European Union.

The protests turned deadly last month, culminating in Yanukovych`s ouster on February 22.

First Published: Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 01:16
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