Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin for political talks at the Federal Foreign Office on 8 January. The focus was on the current situation in Ukraine. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel had a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk shortly before. The two‑day visit to Berlin by the Ukrainian Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister is intended to help explore ways to further the implementation of the Minsk Protocol on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
In a press conference following his meeting with Merkel, Yatsenyuk said that acting on the Minsk Protocol was key in stabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine. He pointed out that Ukraine had kept its part of the agreement and that President Poroshenko had ordered a ceasefire.
Merkel emphasised that Germany wanted to continue to support Ukraine as it moved further towards transparency and democracy. This, she said, included restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity. Implementation of the Minsk Protocol, the Chancellor added, was the key.
Merkel and Yatsenyuk also discussed the implementation of reforms towards further economic and political stability in Ukraine. Yatsenyuk thanked the German Government for providing loan guarantees of half a billion euros and promised comprehensive reforms to tackle corruption, as well as in the tax system and other fields.
Steinmeier and Klimkin: Talks on the current situation
After this meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier held talks at the Federal Foreign Office with his counterpart Klimkin. They, too, concentrated on the current situation in Ukraine.
They also looked at ways to improve the prospects for defusing the situation in eastern Ukraine. To this end, further moves towards implementing the Minsk Protocol, such as identifying a line of disengagement recognised and respected by both sides, and the disengagement of the fighters, were necessary.
Meeting of senior diplomats at the Federal Foreign Office
A meeting of senior diplomats from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia to discuss the crisis was held at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on Monday, 5 January. It was announced after this meeting that the senior diplomats would continue their talks, as there were still unresolved issues.
The meeting was preceded by intensive consultations between the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Ukraine as well as Russia. Foreign Minister Steinmeier discussed a solution to the conflict in a number of phone calls with his three counterparts at the turn of the year. Speaking to the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper the day before the meeting of senior diplomats, Germany's Foreign Minister said:
The humanitarian obligation to help the people in eastern Ukraine to get through the winter and fresh concerns about a further deterioration of the economic and financial situation in Russia and Ukraine as a result of the crisis could improve the prospects for defusing the crisis. We intend to use this momentum.
It was important, Steinmeier continued, that the Minsk Protocol remains the basis of everyone’s actions. He added:
What we need now are the next implementation steps – with a ceasefire that really holds, as well as progress as regards the line of disengagement, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and humanitarian access. This is what we are working to achieve.
Exchange of prisoners is an encouraging signal
The most recent tangible progress was seen over Christmas, when a total of 370 Ukrainian soldiers and separatist fighters were released in an exchange of prisoners. The exchange took place on 27 and 28 December in the presence of OSCE observers.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier considered it to be “an important and encouraging signal”. He said that it was important to build on this and “to work as hard as we can to resolve the other key issues of the Minsk Protocol, such as finalising the disengagement lines”. Steinmeier added that, in view of the wintry conditions in Ukraine, it was even more urgent to reach “viable agreements”, also for humanitarian support. Federal Chancellor Merkel also welcomed the exchange of prisoners.
Political talks in Kyiv
The German Foreign Minister last travelled to Kyiv for political talks on 19 December. In addition to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his political leadership, he also met the OSCE Special Representative for Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini.
The talks focused on the situation in eastern Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk Protocol, as well as the country’s extremely difficult economic and financial situation.