Germany’s foreign minister called on Ukraine and Russia to “show responsibility” and agree on a roadmap in four-way talks on Tuesday (29 November) on how to implement last year’s ceasefire accord for eastern Ukraine, but dampened hopes for a breakthrough.
Speaking before he flew to Minsk to join his French, Ukrainian and Russian counterparts for the talks, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there was “no reason to be overly confident” but that the meeting was “not just for its own sake”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the meeting was a step in the right direction and would focus on humanitarian issues as well as security.
The four nations agreed in October to draw up a roadmap this month on how to implement a ceasefire agreement struck in the Belarussian capital last year to end fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The breakaway strategy should be understood as part of Russia’s broader efforts to keep its sphere of influence in the former Soviet periphery intact so as to buffer against foreign rivals, writes Eugene Chausovsky.
Separatist violence there has killed nearly 10,000 people since it erupted in 2014.
“There is still no agreement about this road map and so today will be about whether will can succeed, with a perspective of several weeks, in clearing up the points that are still open,” Steinmeier told reporters before taking off.
“I hope that there will be the necessary degree of responsibility and sense on all sides to achieve improvements.”
He warned that the situation had deteriorated and said it was time to find solutions to get things back under control.
“All in all: this is not a simple situation and therefore there is no reason to be overly confident,” said Steinmeier, who with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has devoted much effort to trying to resolve the crisis.
Moscow and Kiev agreed Wednesday (19 October) to end a deadlock on the conflict in eastern Ukraine by the end of November, Ukraine’s president said, after a four-way summit in Berlin with the leaders of France and Germany.
He said one possibility would be the further disengagement of soldiers at the front in eastern Ukraine.
Kiev and the West accuse Russia of stoking the separatist movement and aiding the rebels. Western nations have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow.
The Kremlin denies these charges, however, and accuses Ukraine of perpetuating the violence and violating the Minsk deal.
Most of the terms of the original Minsk agreement, including restoring control of Ukraine’s eastern borders to Kiev and holding regional elections, have not yet been implemented.
“I hope Russia will meet us halfway,” Klimkin told reporters.
Ukraine is doing less than Russia to meet its obligations under the Minsk peace plan, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Saturday (17 September), stepping up calls for the European Union to end sanctions against Moscow.