The Russia-Ukraine conflict can only be resolved by diplomatic means. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier are working tirelessly with Germany’s European and international partners to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
The Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and its Trilateral Contact Group (OSCE, Ukraine and Russia), which was set up in June 2014, form the main basis for resolving the conflict. On the political level, this process is being supported by countries in what is known as the Normandy format* (Germany and France as mediators; Ukraine and Russia as the parties to the conflict).
Minsk agreements: the first important step towards peace
Following months of fighting in eastern Ukraine between separatist forces supported by Russia and Ukrainian troops, the points agreed in Minsk in September 2014 were an important first step towards peace. Mediated by the OSCE, Ukrainian and Russian representatives agreed on a ceasefire and a framework for a political resolution to the conflict. On 5 September 2014, this Minsk Protocol was signed by the Trilateral Contact Group and representatives of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic”. Concrete agreements on implementing the ceasefire were added in the form of the Minsk Memorandum on 19 September 2014.
In view of the protracted implementation of these agreements and the dramatically escalating security situation, the Trilateral Contact Group and representatives of the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk under separatist control agreed on a road map in Minsk on 12 February 2015 on implementing what had been agreed there in September 2014. This agreement was reached after intensive talks between the Heads of State and Government of the Normandy format countries. The Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014 was signed by the signatories to the Minsk agreements of September 2014 on 12 February 2015.
Oversight mechanism in the Normandy format
In a joint declaration issued on the same day, the Heads of State and Government of the Normandy format countries expressed their support for the Package of Measures and “reaffirm[ed] their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. In order to ensure this they agreed, among other things, to establish an oversight mechanism in the Normandy format. This convenes at regular intervals on the level of senior officials from the foreign ministries.
Although there is still fighting in eastern Ukraine, the situation along the contact line has become significantly calmer since the signing of the Package of Measures in Minsk in February 2015. The aim remains to achieve a long‑term ceasefire. The agreements on political issues were firmed up at a series of meetings among the foreign ministers of the Normandy format countries and a further summit in Paris in November 2015. However, meaningful progress has been hindered by the fact that there are still widely diverging positions among the four working groups in the Minsk process. In view of this, the implementation of the Minsk agreement under the aegis of the OSCE, with support from the “Normandy Four”, remains a great political challenge.