On Wednesday (25 March) Federal Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier met his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin for political consultations. The talks took place one day after the Germanwings plane crash. One hundred and fifty people, including many Germans, lost their lives in the terrible accident in southern France. One Dutch citizen is also among the victims of the disaster.
At the start of their joint press conference Foreign Minister Steinmeier thanked his Dutch colleague for the huge amount of sympathy shown by all the people of the Netherlands in the wake of the disaster. Steinmeier took the opportunity to reiterate his great appreciation and respect for the speed and professionalism with which France had launched the recovery operations. The Foreign Minister had been able to gain a first‑hand impression of the disaster area the previous evening.
Appreciation for the huge amount of sympathy
Koenders, too, was clearly moved by the appalling tragedy. He said: “As friends and neighbours we are united in our grief.” He also offered support from the Dutch Government for search and recovery operations, such as the deployment of teams of experts to help identify the victims.
An important subject of the talks between Steinmeier and Koenders was the Ukraine conflict. Both ministers stressed the importance of rapid and complete implementation of the Minsk agreements. In the Minsk agreements the conflict parties commit themselves, among other things, to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and the commencement of a political process with the aim of finding a lasting solution to the conflict.
Important discussions on Ukraine in Paris
After talks in Berlin on Tuesday (24 March), high‑ranking officials from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia met in Paris on Wednesday (25 March) in the so‑called Normandy format to discuss the next phase in implementing the Minsk agreements.
“This includes establishing task forces within the international contact group (...) so that humanitarian support efforts can begin,” explained Steinmeier. He said it was also very important to launch “the so‑called political process, which will also include the preparation of regional elections in Ukraine”. Steinmeier was cautiously optimistic that the meeting would bear fruit. He said that in the last few days he had talked on the phone with both the Ukrainian and the Russian Foreign Ministers in preparation for it.
Understanding for Ukrainian President Poroshenko
When asked, Steinmeier expressed understanding for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to dismiss Ihor Kolomoisky, Governor of Dnipropetrovsk. Dnipropetrovsk is an industrial region in eastern Ukraine directly bordering on the conflict region. A few days ago Kolomoisky took over the head offices of two businesses with the help of armed forces. Steinmeier said that he fully understood President Poroshenko’s decision.