German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on Russia and Ukraine to set in motion the next phase of the shaky Minsk peace accords aimed at stopping the fighting in east Ukraine, ahead of talks about their implementation in Berlin today (13 April).
“We expect both Moscow and Kyiv to seize the central issue of the implementation of the next phase of Minsk,” Steinmeier said in an interview in Monday’s edition of Die Welt newspaper.
The next phase foresees “the preparation of local elections in the areas occupied by the separatists, but also humanitarian access and reconstruction in eastern Ukraine,” Steinmeier said.
The German minister will host his counterparts from Ukraine, Russia and France in Berlin today to study the implementation of the Minsk accords that have stopped much of the fighting despite frequent violations.
Steinmeier said progress had been made, pointing to the “well-advanced withdrawal of heavy weapons”.
On Sunday, an unnamed NATO official told another newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that Russia was still supplying troops and weapons to the separatists in Ukraine, in violation of the Minsk accords.
Steinmeier said observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who are operating in east Ukraine, were making progress, “but it is not enough”.
The OSCE this week demanded that both the pro-Russian separatists and the regular Ukrainian army stop intimidating or restricting the movements of its 400 monitors.
The results of the talks in Berlin will be discussed at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Lübeck, Germany, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine gave their support to a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, following 17-hour long negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk on 12 February.
The four leaders committed to respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a joint declaration.
Western leaders are closely observing the implementation of the Minsk agreement.
On 2 March, European leaders said that they agreed that the OSCE needed a broader role as observers of the ceasefire, and weapons removal.