During his talks in Kyiv and Moscow on Tuesday (18 November), Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier called for a de‑escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In light of the latest escalation, he urged both sides to uphold the Minsk Protocol on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
In both Kyiv and Moscow, Steinmeier underlined the German Government’s conviction that the conflict over eastern Ukraine cannot be resolved by military means. During his talks, the Foreign Minister said efforts must be made to reach a political settlement and that the Minsk Protocol provides the framework for this.
Growth pact for Ukraine
Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s first meeting in Kyiv on Tuesday morning was with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. During the joint press conference after their talk, the German Foreign Minister stressed that the Minsk Protocol remains a foundation for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict. Steinmeier therefore reiterated his demand “that we should continue working on implementing the agreements of the Minsk Protocol”.
He congratulated Yatsenyuk on his election victory, and expressed his hope that the coalition negotiations in Kyiv would soon be concluded and result in a strong government capable of taking action. Steinmeier said that Ukraine deserves support on its political and economic stabilisation. He continued:
This is why I support the European Commission’s idea of holding a European conference as soon as possible in order to launch a Compact for Growth for Ukraine.
Implementing the Minsk Protocol step by step
Steinmeier spoke with President Petro Poroshenko during the afternoon at a meeting also attended by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. Afterwards, Steinmeier and Klimkin gave a joint press conference outside the Ukrainian President’s Office. Steinmeier underlined that he had had an intense discussion with President Poroshenko “against the backdrop of a very serious and dangerous situation in eastern Ukraine”. The German Foreign Minister was visibly concerned about the latest developments. Describing the security situation as precarious and the ceasefire as fragile, he said that the tone had become significantly harsher in the past days.
He continued that he and President Poroshenko were thus in agreement that “we must use all options to avoid falling back into a situation where there is a threat of an imminent major military confrontation”. When the Minsk Protocol was signed, he said, people had believed and hoped that this situation had become a thing of the past. Steinmeier added:
It is now vital to convince people not only to respect the Minsk Protocol, but also to implement it step by step.
Talks with Putin and Lavrov in Moscow
After the talks in Kyiv, Steinmeier travelled to the Russian capital Moscow, where his first meeting was with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the early evening.
At the joint press conference after their meeting, the German Foreign Minister warned about the consequences of the crisis in eastern Ukraine for Europe. “The Ukraine conflict is a truly serious crisis for the European peace order,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier told journalists in Moscow. “We are at something of a crossroads. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are once again faced with the threat of speechlessness instead of dialogue, isolation instead of discussion, and confrontation instead of cooperation.”
Shortly before his return flight to Berlin, Foreign Minister Steinmeier had an unscheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the late evening. The discussion in the Kremlin focused on the conflict in Ukraine and on bilateral relations between Germany and Russia.
EU foreign ministers favour a joint Ukraine strategy
Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s visit to Kyiv and Moscow followed the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Monday (17 November), where the agenda included the joint EU strategy on the conflict in Ukraine.
Shortly before this meeting, Steinmeier gave an interview to the German weekly newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” in which he suggested bringing together representatives of the EU and the Eurasian Union. He said that this could help to ease relations. We need “to look for new ways of reducing the tension between the EU and Russia”. The aim of the EU’s policy must be to prevent a renewed “spiral of violence” in Ukraine, he said.