Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:40PM
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (photo by AFP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (photo by AFP)

The US has assured Ukraine that Washington will not consider any deal with Russia linking the fates of Ukraine and Syria, the Ukrainian president’s office says.

The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the news in a Tuesday statement following a phone conversation between Poroshenko and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"Rex Tillerson emphasized that Washington will not allow any package deal as regards solution to the situation in Ukraine and Syria," the statement said.

Tillerson held talks with Poroshenko in the lead-up to his visit to Moscow. According to some media reports, Tillerson seeks to persuade Russia to abandon Syria during the visit.

The news comes amid Kiev’s concerns about the prospect of a clandestine agreement between Washington and Moscow over Crimea and other disputed territories seized by Russian-backed separatists in 2014.

Conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with Russia in March 2014. The West brands the development as Moscow’s annexation of the territory. The US and its allies in Europe also accuse Russia of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by Moscow.

The crisis has left over 10,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.

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Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have also witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April 2014 to crush pro-Moscow protests there.

In September 2014, the government in Kiev and the pro-Russian forces signed a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk in a bid to halt the clashes in Ukraine’s eastern regions. The warring sides also inked another truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany and France.

Since then, however, both parties have on numerous occasions accused each other of breaking the ceasefire.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (photo by AFP)

US-Russia row over Syria

Tillerson’s visit to Moscow comes amid the escalating tensions between the US and Russia over the crisis in Syria and a few days after US missile strikes on a Syrian army base.

Washington ordered the assault after accusing Syria of carrying out a chemical attack against the town of Khan Shaykhun in the northwestern province of Idlib last week, which killed dozens of civilians.

Russia, which has military presence in Syria upon the permission of the Syria government to help Damascus in its anti-terror campaign, denounced the unauthorized US strike as "an act of aggression.” Moscow said it would revoke its 2015 agreement with Washington aimed at avoiding mid-air collisions during their military missions in the Syrian airspace.

The US, on the other hand, has warned that Russia must choose between the United States and the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Observers say the US attack threatens to irreversibly turn around the gains achieved toward the realization of a political solution to the six-year foreign-backed crisis in Syria.