Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited his opposite numbers from France, Russia and Ukraine on Monday evening to the Federal Foreign Office Guest House in the Tegel district of Berlin for the fourth time. After negotiations lasting several hours, the four Foreign Ministers agreed during the night on further steps to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had issued the invitation for talks in the “Normandy” Format, spoke after the meeting of a “very long, intensive and at times very heated discussion”. At the same time, the German Foreign Minister continued, there was no alternative to advancing the implementation of the Minsk Protocol. Together with his colleagues Laurent Fabius, Pavlo Klimkin and Sergey Lavrov, he went on to stress that they want to keep on working to defuse the Ukraine conflict and to implement the Minsk Protocol.
Initiating the political process
The German Foreign Minister repeatedly emphasised that the Protocol was not just an agreement about the ceasefire. He stated that it also formed the basis for initiating a political process, which would ensure that “beyond a ceasefire, we are moving slowly step by step towards a political solution to the Ukraine conflict”.
The Foreign Ministers called for an end to the fighting. Before that, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that although the situation in eastern Ukraine had eased somewhat, hostilities are still ongoing: during the Orthodox Easter there had been gunfire and even several deaths. It was therefore “too early to say that the crisis is over”.
Advancing the establishment of working groups
During their meeting, the four Foreign Ministers agreed on measures which, among other things, concern the withdrawal of further categories of weapons and the establishment of OSCE working groups. These groups would discuss humanitarian assistance, security issues, the political process and economic reconstruction in eastern Ukraine. The head of the international Contact Group, Heidi Tagliavini, also took part in the “Normandy” Format meeting in Berlin. Steinmeier stated that the working groups would also address the preparation of local elections in eastern Ukraine. The Ministers furthermore said that they wanted to see the exchange of prisoners continue, the goal being “the exchange of all prisoners”.
Finally, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that working towards a solution to the conflict was not easy. Everyone was aware that “we still have a long road ahead of us”. However, he stated, “It’s a laborious process. At any rate, we for our part will do everything to ensure that this process is continued”. After the meeting in Villa Borsig, Foreign Minister Steinmeier – as well as his French counterpart Fabius – will travel on to the G7 meeting in Lübeck on Tuesday (14 April). There, the Ukraine conflict is also on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers consultations.