Macron puts faith in Minsk accords

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko (L) attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 26 June 2017. [Alian Jocard/ EPA]

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday (26 June) he saw no better way of negotiating an end to the Ukraine conflict than through the Minsk agreements, sharply differing with comments made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson said on 14 June that the Trump administration did not wish to be “handcuffed” by the 2015 accords, brokered in the Belorussian capital by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, and he suggested Kyiv could reach a separate, independent agreement with Moscow.

Three years after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and then backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine in fighting that has seen 10,000 people killed, there is little sign of a peaceful solution despite a ceasefire agreement signed in February 2015 in Minsk.

Speaking after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Macron said: “We need to give ourselves a few months to succeed within the framework of these accords.”

Referring to Tillerson’s comments to a US congressional hearing, Macron said: “I see that for some this is not ideal… but I have not seen a better solution being offered or rather I have not understood it.

“The question is not about the principles since these accords have been signed, but the question of daily implementation,” he said.

In an interview with Reuters, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he was not especially concerned by separate US efforts saying the priority was to deliver results on the ground.

“They (the United States) are considering how to engage,” he said, suggesting Washington might be considering a “parallel track with a different level of engagement”.

“This is not the real issue. (What matters) is our joint commitment to getting results and whether the level of coordination is enough to get them,” Klimkin said.

Both Macron and Poroshenko said they hoped a new “Normandy format” summit – involving the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia – would take place in the coming weeks, but officials cautioned this would be a pointless effort unless there were tangible results.

The four leaders would speak by phone in the coming days.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that both sides in eastern Ukraine were violating the ceasefire and expressed doubts over prospects for resolving the crisis in the near-term.

To avoid fruitless talks, Macron said that he wanted pre-conditions set before any future negotiations including breakthroughs on removing troops from borders, greater monitoring by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers and progress on the humanitarian and prisoner situation.

Poroshenko said he was much more optimistic after meeting Macron that the summit could produce concrete achievements.

“We want documents to be prepared beforehand so that they can bring peace in Ukraine,” he said. He said Ukraine was ready to respect all the points in the Minsk deal, but demanded a round-the-clock OSCE presence in frontline areas if Ukrainian troops were to pull back.

Subscribe to our newsletters