President Viktor Yanukovych and the Opposition leaders have agreed on a preliminary agreement to solve the internal crisis in Ukraine. The agreement includes early presidential elections, a return to the 2004 constitution and the creation of an interim cabinet which would include members of the Opposition. Foreign Minister Steinmeier helped to mediate the negotiations on the agreement.
The preliminary agreement between the Government and Opposition in Ukraine includes a return to the 2004 constitution within a period of 48 hours after it is signed. Moreover, within a period of 10 days an interim government of national unity should be formed and the constitution should be reformed before September 2014. Presidential elections should take place as soon as a new constitution has been agreed upon and in any case no later than December 2014. The latest acts of violence should be investigated and the cases resolved by the Ukrainian authorities responsible, in cooperation with the Opposition and the Council of Europe.
The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland issued a joint statement on the signing of the agreement:
The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland welcome the signing of the agreement on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, commend the parties for their courage and commitment to the agreement and call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation in Ukraine.
Steinmeier: “Everyone did their bit”
Directly after the signing, Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined that the agreement fulfils four important demands made by the Opposition: the formation of a new government, a return to the 2004 constitution, the elaboration of a new constitution before September 2014 and early presidential elections. Steinmeier continued:
These were the key demands and after difficult negotiations – we negotiated for around 30 hours – we were able to incorporate them. I hope that all sides will work to implement the agreement in the next few days. (...) This framework must now be fleshed out by the Ukrainians themselves. We will keep an eye on events to see that the provisions of the agreements reached here are implemented.
The German Foreign Minister believed that even the Ukrainian leadership had realised “that what we have experienced in recent days is leading to a tragedy in Ukraine”. Even as the negotiations were taking place many people were being killed and injured. This had led the Ukrainian leadership to rethink matters and by “negotiating patiently” it was possible to work out a compromise between Government and Opposition. In conclusion, Steinmeier emphasised:
It was worth it, everyone did their bit. This was not achieved by individuals, it was achieved above all by those who found a way to approach each other here in Ukraine, a way which they were unable or unwilling to find in the past.
Weimar Triangle as mediator
Beforehand, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterparts from France and Poland, Laurent Fabius and Radoslaw Sikorski, had laid the groundwork for an agreement during difficult negotiations between the Government and Opposition. After an initial meeting with representatives of the Ukrainian Opposition Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleg Tyahnibok, they met for over four‑hour long talks with Ukrainian President Yanukovych in the heavily guarded government district. The meeting was overshadowed by reports of further fatalities in the fighting on the Maidan.
After the departure of the French Foreign Minister on a long planned visit to China on Thursday evening, Steinmeier and Sikorski remained in Kyiv, negotiating a solution with all parties involved until the early hours of the morning. On Friday, together with Opposition leaders Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and Tyahnibok, they took part in a meeting of the so‑called Maidan Civic Council. The council is formed of various different opposition groups who had been calling for President Yanukovych to resign immediately. After the discussion with the two Foreign Ministers the representatives of the Maidan Civic Council also supported the agreement. This paved the way for it to be signed.
Joint visit to Kyiv
The visit to Kyiv was the first joint trip undertaken within the framework of the so‑called Weimar Triangle; the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Poland and France. Prior to his departure to Ukraine on Thursday morning, Steinmeier issued the following statement:
We want to talk to President Yanukovych and Opposition representatives in order to urge both sides to call a reprieve and to scale back the violence. And we want to help the parties back to the negotiating table and towards a political solution. Only the parties in Kyiv can resolve the conflict.
Steinmeier had stressed that he was travelling to Kyiv with Sikorski and Fabius, his fellow “Weimar Triangle” Foreign Ministers, and in very close coordination with EU High Representative Ashton, thereby underscoring the joint position taken by Europe toward Ukraine. He commented as follows on the chances of success of the mediation attempt:
“We cannot know whether we will manage to avert something even worse. But in my opinion, Europe has a responsibility to try.”