French President François Hollande called on all parties in the Ukraine conflict to draw up a roadmap to end the crisis, after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart yesterday (13 October) in which he urged early elections to be held in rebel-held Eastern Ukraine.
The aim would be to help Ukraine regain control of its borders with Russia, he said, after speaking by telephone with Petro Poroshenko, the French presidency said in a statement.
Hollande had spoken Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin about organising a summit on the conflict “very soon in Berlin”, according to a press release by the presidency.
“It is urgent to create all the conditions for elections in the east of the country, under Ukrainian law and respectful of OSCE standards. It is therefore imperative to consolidate the ceasefire and to continue and expand the disengagement operations”, Hollande is quoted as saying in a press release.
Although elections in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk are one of the conditions under the Minsk deal (see background), Ukraine says this can be done only under normal conditions, including disarmament, withdrawal of illegal armed units and creating a people’s militia.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, backs a separatist, pro-Moscow insurgency in Eastern Ukraine that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
Moscow has denied accusations that it has sent troops and weaponry across its border with Ukraine to fuel the conflict.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today (14 October) he hoped the ceasefire in the separatist-held east, part of a deal signed in September, would hold.
“We have no reason for complacency,” he told journalists in Strasbourg, where he is attending a Council of Europe meeting.
“We are trying to stabilise the ceasefire,” he said, adding: “We are advancing, but slowly, millimetre by millimetre.”
Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has monitors in Eastern Ukraine.
All sides agreed to a peace deal brokered by Germany and France in February 2015, but while the so-called Minsk accords reduced the intensity of fighting, they failed to stop it.
Steinmeier also said there was “no alternative” to the accords.
France is pursuing efforts to organise a summit on the Ukraine conflict despite tensions with Russia over Syria.
The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine (the so-called Normandy format) gave their support to a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, following 17-hour long negotiations in the Belorussian 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 2015, European leaders said that they agreed that the OSCE needed a broader role as observers of the ceasefire, and weapons removal.
On 2 October 2015, the leaders of the Normandy format admitted that it would take time to organise elections in Ukraine that respect international standards and as a result, the so-called Minsk peace process would run into next year.