Crucial talks on Ukraine settlement break down

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The foreign ministry of Belarus, which has been hosting Ukraine peace talks, says the much-anticipated round of negotiations on Friday has been scrapped.

Ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik told The Associated Press that the talks broke down but did not give a reason.

The opening round was held on Wednesday, one day after Ukraine's decision to drop its non-aligned status, which added a new element of tension to the attempts to resolve the violent crisis in the country.

The talks were to discuss how to improve an often-violated cease-fire that was declared in September, to pull back heavy weapons and to exchange of war prisoners. The negotiators included representatives of Ukraine, Russia, pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.