On Tuesday (24 June), Frank-Walter Steinmeier held talks in Kyiv with the Ukrainian leadership on the current peace efforts. He had travelled on Monday evening (23 June) to Ukraine to meet the newly elected President Petro Poroshenko and to assess the current situation in the country first hand.
Following his talks with President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Steinmeier stated on Tuesday that Ukraine is currently experiencing “historic, perhaps decisive days”. The German Foreign Minister went on to say:
My talks here have shown me that following the presentation of the peace plan, there are real opportunities for change, movement, progress. And I am absolutely convinced that in the current situation we must leave no stone unturned and leave no opportunity unexplored.
Possibility of an extended OSCE mission
At the same time, Steinmeier added, we must “not be too optimistic” and we must not “overestimate the chances”. He stressed that it was now the time to look into how realistic it is to extend the OSCE mission to observe the situation:
We need to investigate whether, alongside the many nations already involved in the OSCE mission, Russia will increase its involvement by sending observers and whether cooperation in the area of border control is possible.
Finally, the German Foreign Minister recalled the fate of the OSCE observers who have been detained since the end of May and whose cause he once again took up during talks with the Ukrainian Government: “Let me be very clear: anyone hoping for increased security through the presence of a large OSCE observer mission must also ensure that the observers currently being detained are released.”
From Luxembourg to Kyiv
Immediately before his trip to Kyiv, Steinmeier had taken part in the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg. There he had met, among others, his new Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin, who had previously been Ukraine’s Ambassador in Berlin. At yesterday’s EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Klimkin presented Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s peace plan to the 28 EU foreign ministers. Read more about the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg here.
Immediately after his arrival in Kyiv, Steinmeier met that same night with the OSCE deputy chair and member of the Trilateral Contact Group, Heidi Tagliavini. The Contact Group is working towards finding a solution to the Ukrainian conflict through talks with all parties. The other two members of the group are the new Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, and the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. Tagliavini had just returned from Donetsk, where she held talks with the separatists about observing the previously announced ceasefire.
Difficult economic situation in Ukraine
On Tuesday (24 June), Steinmeier first of all had talks with Rinat Akhmetov, a businessman who wields great influence in eastern Ukraine. Steinmeier and Akhmetov have already met before several times.
Finally, the German Foreign Minister met with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. They discussed the difficult economic situation in Ukraine and the dispute over Russian gas supplies.
Remembering the Maidan protests
Following his meeting at the Prime Minister’s office, Steinmeier and his delegation went by foot to the presidential palace. The German Foreign Minister was thus able to get an impression of the atmosphere in the streets of the city together with the German Ambassador in Kyiv, Christoph Weil. Although the unrest in eastern Ukraine is several hundred kilometres away, there are still a number of barricades, tents and car tyres that call to mind the Maidan protests.
In the afternoon, Foreign Minister Steinmeier continued to the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels – here, the NATO-Ukraine Commission will meet and discuss the relations between NATO and Ukraine, as well as relations with Russia.