Talks on Ukraine produce no visible results
MINSK, BelarusA meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany intended to shore up a shaky peace process in eastern Ukraine ended Nov. 29 without any visible progress.
“It’s presently impossible to even agree on the steps to be taken in terms of security and political reforms” in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying after the huddle in the Belarusian capital Minsk, according to AFP.
At an October summit in Berlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko said they were aiming to resolve an impasse on the conflict by the end of November, vowing to put together a roadmap for applying the frayed 2015 Minsk peace accords.
Neither the Ukrainian government nor the pro-Russian rebels waging an insurgency in the country’s east have fully implemented the agreements - designed to bring an end to a conflict that has claimed 10,000 lives since 2014 - and low-level fighting continues.
“Regarding the roadmap, the discussion remained very superficial” on Nov. 29, said Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, who described the meeting as “very difficult.”
“Sadly, we cannot announce any promising results” from the gathering, Klimkin added.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said both Ukraine and Russia had hardened their positions and there was no political agreement in sight on holding local elections in Donbass, as demanded by Russia and the Kremlin-backed separatists.
“It was very tedious again today,” Steinmeier said. “Pure lip service will not be enough to solve this conflict.”
Highlighting some positives, Steinmeier did, however, say the International Red Cross could help facilitate a significant exchange of prisoners before the end of the year and was optimistic about more phased troops withdrawals taking place.
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.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said there was still a long way to go on implementing the Minsk process. Speaking to Reuters ahead of the talks, he also called for Europe to stand firm on sanctions against Russia.
With one eye on the presidential election race back home, where front runner Francois Fillon favors lifting the sanctions, Ayrault said Russia was playing a waiting game to allow Western divisions on the Ukraine crisis to widen.