In negotiations which lasted nearly 17 hours in the Belarusian capital Minsk, on Thursday morning (12 February) the Heads of State and Government of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement on a ceasefire for eastern Ukraine. Germany was represented by Federal Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier. After the negotiations, Steinmeier stated that the agreement reached was no breakthrough but that it could mark a step away from the spiral of military escalation and lead to political impetus.
The top‑level talks between Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia on de‑escalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine had been ongoing since they started on Wednesday afternoon. The parties to the conflict finally agreed on a ceasefire which is set to enter into force at 12 a.m. on 15 February as well as a roadmap for the implementation of the Minsk agreements of September 2014. The agreement was signed by leaders of the pro-Russian rebels and the Ukraine Trilateral Contact Group which, alongside representatives of Moscow and Kyiv, also includes the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Steinmeier: “extremely difficult negotiations”
After the conclusion of the talks, Federal Chancellor Merkel made a reserved statement: “I am under no illusion, we are under no illusion – there is still an enormous amount of work to be done.” However, she did say that she had significantly higher hopes than before the summit in Minsk, and that therefore the Franco‑German peace initiative had been worthwhile. French President Hollande stated that it was a relief for Europe and a good example of what France and Germany could do to foster peace.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier, too, spoke of “extremely difficult negotiations”. He said that the joint declaration had not “come easily”. At least a ceasefire had been agreed. The Minsk agreements of September 2014 had been reaffirmed, he continued, and moreover for the first time a clear timetable had been set out for the implementation of its provisions on “elections, border control and prisoner exchanges”.
Possible step towards political impetus
Steinmeier went on to say that he hoped both sides had negotiated “sincerely and with good intentions” and that in the delicate phase before the ceasefire entered into force they would “refrain from anything which could undermine the agreements reached today”.
The German Foreign Minister added that:
Today’s agreement is not a comprehensive settlement and certainly no breakthrough. However, after weeks of violence, Minsk II could mark a step away from this spiral of military escalation and could lead to political impetus. If there is a chance of this happening then our efforts have been worth it.
Steinmeier had postponed his trip to Brazil, scheduled to start yesterday, in order to remain at the negotiations until the end.
Joint declaration of Heads of State and Government
In their joint declaration, Merkel, Hollande, Putin and Poroshenko emphasised their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Furthermore they stated their firm belief that “there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement.” In order to ensure this they agreed, amongst other things, to an oversight mechanism in the Normandy format which will convene at regular intervals on the level of senior officials from the foreign ministries.
After 17 hours of negotiations, Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement in Minsk on the morning of 12 February: It has been a very long night in Minsk; the negotiations were…
Declaration by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” adopted on February 12, 2015 in Minsk
Declaration by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Ukraine, the President of the French Republic and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in support of the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”