The people in eastern Ukraine are now embarking on the sixth winter of the war. The suffering that the war is causing the people is great. Some 13,000 people have been killed to date and 30,000 wounded; over one million people have fled their homes. Together with France, Germany has been committed to achieving a peaceful solution since the crisis broke out. At their meeting on 20 December, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Ukrainian counterpart Vadym Prystaiko discussed tangible steps towards implementing the agreements reached in Paris.
Momentum in the efforts to resolve the conflict
As part of the Minsk agreements, the members of what is known as the Normandy format – Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France – had agreed in 2014 and 2015 to a road map for resolving the conflict. The process stagnated for a long time and vital parts of the agreement were not implemented. However, there have recently been a number of positive signals that this process will get underway again soon. For the first time in three years, a Normandy summit at the level of heads of state and government was held in Paris on 9 December. At the summit, those in attendance reached important agreements. A lasting and comprehensive ceasefire must be implemented and there is to be an exchange of prisoners in the near future. A final agreement is still being worked on.
Foreign Minister Maas had the following to say about this:
There can only be peace when the guns fall silent. Our most important agreements therefore concern the ceasefire, which must now, at long last, be permanently upheld.
Focus now on Details
The parties to the conflict must implement the decisions reached at the summit by taking concrete action at various levels. To this end, they must now focus on numerous political and legal questions, such as the special status for territories in eastern Ukraine that are not under government control, the legal implementation of the Steinmeier formula and the arrangements for holding elections in the occupied territories. All of these components are required in order to achieve tangible progress for the people in eastern Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Maas said:
At the end of the day, we will have to judge the outcome reached in Paris by the progress that we make in the actual implementation.