Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to St Petersburg on Tuesday (10 June) to discuss the crisis in Ukraine with Foreign Ministers Sikorski and Lavrov of Poland and Russia. This “trialogue” constellation was developed back in 2009 during Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s first term of office.
“For the first time in weeks and even months, options for de‑escalating the crisis are in sight,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier announced on Tuesday (10 June), following the trialogue meeting with his Polish and Russian counterparts.
Steinmeier noted that a political settlement to the conflict was still some way off, but stressed that “now the positive momentum must be used. We must now make the process of de‑escalation irreversible.”
Preventing a division of Europe
The German-Russian-Polish trialogue was launched in 2009, prompted by the conviction that the three countries could only contribute to the building of confidence in Europe by working together.
Five years on, the annual meeting between the three foreign ministers – Steinmeier, Sikorski and Lavrov – was dominated by the Ukraine crisis. In St Petersburg on Tuesday, Steinmeier saw a “little light at the end of the tunnel”.
We tried to reach agreement on the fact that, in this profound European crisis, none of the states involved in the talks could have any interest in risking a new division of Europe. And everybody knows just how hard we have fought in the past days and weeks to make sure that this division is really prevented.
Steinmeier stressed how important it was for there to be “substantive dialogue, above and beyond the first contacts that have been made between the newly elected Ukrainian President and the Russian President.” He said the key was ending the violence in eastern Ukraine.
Securing the Russian-Ukrainian border is important
Of particular relevance in Steinmeier’s view is the joint management of the border between Ukraine and Russia, in order to halt the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine:
This must also involve looking for means of securing the border so that weapons and fighters cannot cross it in the future. This seems to me to be a key issue, and I hope that progress can be made on it.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov appeared confident that the separatists in eastern Ukraine would adhere to a cease-fire, as has been mooted by Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Steinmeier said he hoped that Russia would exert its influence on the separatist groups to this end.
Continuing the dialogue
At the joint press conference given on Tuesday by the three foreign ministers, Steinmeier said that he had realised during the talks in St Petersburg that “all sides are at least willing to engage in this serious dialogue with the aim of contributing to a further de‑escalation of the situation in Ukraine.”
We must make sure that the process now launched through the national dialogue in Ukraine – and at international level with the talks held in France – is not derailed again.
Foreign Minister Sikorski of Poland stated that he saw no danger for Russia in the event that Ukraine were to strengthen its ties with the European Union.
Non-political projects and exchange
The “trialogue” between Germany, Russia and Poland encompasses not only cooperation at political level, but also covers cooperation in the field of science and research, an exchange for young people and students as well as cooperation on diplomatic training.
The previous foreign ministerial meetings took place in Kaliningrad (2011), Berlin (2012) and Warsaw (2013).