Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Ukraine on Friday and Saturday (29 and 30 May). After discussions with the political leadership in Kyiv, Steinmeier expressed his concern about the situation in eastern Ukraine, which had deteriorated again. He also called for continued implementation of the Minsk Agreement. At the same time, he expressed his respect for the reforms that are being implemented by the government, and pledged Germany’s support. On Saturday, Steinmeier traveled to Dnipropetrovsk, where he visited a temporary shelter for refugees.
This is already the seventh visit by the German Foreign Minister to Ukraine since assuming office: On 29 and 30 May, Steinmeier held political talks in Kyiv and also gained an impression of the situation in the eastern part of the country, where he visited the city of Dnipropetrovsk.
Situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorates again
Following his talks with the Ukrainian leadership and President Petro Poroshenko, Steinmeier expressed his concern about the situation in Ukraine. The situation in eastern Ukraine, especially in the Donbas, has “deteriorated again”. During their talks, he and President Poroshenko agreed that joint action must be taken to ensure that the truce is respected and that tensions at the remaining hotspots are calmed. This is important so that work can continue on further implementation of the Minsk Agreement. Steinmeier welcomed the scheduling of a meeting of the four working groups of the Trilateral Contact Group for the following Tuesday.
The German Foreign Minister also discussed this issue with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin. Both Ministers had met recently on the fringes of the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Antalya, Turkey, for a long bilateral talk.
Support the reforms on which Ukraine has embarked
While in Kyiv, Steinmeier also met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The German Foreign Minister expressed respect for the reforms on which the government has embarked: The country is currently “tackling mammoth tasks”. Against the background of the difficult economic situation and the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, the government’s challenging reform programme demands “great courage” and a strong political will.
Before departing, Steinmeier emphasised that Ukraine deserves “a real chance” to implement its reforms. For this, he went on to say, Ukraine will need help from the international community: “I can assure the Ukrainian leadership of Germany’s support for this course.” The Federal Government’s “Plan of Action” for Ukraine contains a total of 700 million euros in financial aid for 2015 alone. Some 200 million euros will be given as bilateral assistance for various projects, and an additional 500 million euros have been earmarked as lines of credit in a number of areas. Specific projects have already been identified, Steinmeier said; preparatory work “is in high gear”.
The German Foreign Minister also addressed these topics in his speech to the Kyiv Security Forum, to which he had been invited by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. The full text of the speech is available here.
Steinmeier pays tribute to the work of OSCE monitors
Immediately upon arriving in Kyiv, the German Foreign Minister met and held talks with Mr Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Mission to Ukraine, as well as German OSCE monitors. Steinmeier emphasised the importance of the work they are doing: “Without the OSCE’s efforts in eastern Ukraine, things would certainly not even stand where they are right now.”
The meeting itself focused on the situation in eastern Ukraine: Everything possible must be done to ensure there are no setbacks “in our efforts to de-escalate military tensions” in eastern Ukraine, Steinmeier said.
Meeting with internally displaced persons in Dnipropetrovsk
To gain an impression of the current situation in eastern part of the country, the German Foreign Minister travelled on to the city of Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine on 30 May. The city on the Dnieper River is, on the one hand, an economic centre and the country’s fourth-largest city. On the other hand, it is also directly adjacent to the areas affected by the crisis in eastern Ukraine. That is why the Minister’s talks there strongly focused on the situation of internally displaced persons who have found refuge in Dnipropetrovsk.
Together with Regional Governor Valentin Reznichenko, Steinmeier visited a temporary shelter for internally displaced Ukrainians. More than 90,000 persons are being housed here – with many of them living in shipping containers.
“Most people here hope the political situation will soon allow for them to return to their homes,” said Foreign Minister Steinmeier following his visit. Of course, they are also fully aware of how difficult it is to de-escalate the military conflict, he went on to say. “Many of these people also understand that it will take some time before a political solution begins to emerge.”
Russia should publish its entry ban lists
Also during his visit to Dnipropetrovsk, Steinmeier commented on the entry bans imposed by Russia on a number of European politicians, which had recently gained public attention. “Apart from the fact that I do no believe it is very wise to impose entry bans, those affected could at the very least have been informed of the reservations that are being expressed about them, or these lists could at least have been made public,” said the Foreign Minister. During times when great efforts are being made to defuse “a persistent and dangerous conflict in the heart of Europe”, this is not a positive contribution. Steinmeier went on to say:
I am in favour of us creating conditions as soon as possible in which we talk with one another, and not about one another.
Next stops: the Middle East and Paris
The Minister’s visit to Ukraine is part of a five-day trip, the next stop on which will be the Middle East (from 30 May to 1 June). Steinmeier will meet with political leaders in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Now that a new Israeli government has been formed and a new political situation has come about, the aim is to gauge the prospects for the Middle East peace process.
The Foreign Minister will pay special attention to the situation in the Gaza strip. The last stop on Steinmeier’s trip will be Paris, on Tuesday, 2 June, where he will attend a meeting organised by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of the anti-ISIS coalition.