Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin in Berlin on 4 June to discuss recent fighting in eastern Ukraine. According to Steinmeier, steps will be taken as quickly as possible to ensure that the Russian side sends signals to the separatists for them to put a stop to the hostilities.
Steinmeier and Klimkin have met on frequent occasions in recent times – “so often that I stopped counting quite a while ago”, said the German Foreign Minister at the beginning of his joint press conference in Berlin with his Ukrainian counterpart Klimkin. Unfortunately, there is no lack of issues for them to talk about, however. Steinmeier and Klimkin held detailed discussions on recent hostilities in Ukraine that have witnessed the deployment of heavy weapons and resulted in fatalities.
A fragile ceasefire
The ceasefire negotiated in Minsk was evidently fragile, said Steinmeier: “The infringements of the ceasefire that we have seen time and again could result in the region slipping back into a state of military escalation that we thought we had actually overcome.” This must be prevented, he added: “We have to make sure that the Minsk process stays on track.”
The German Minister said that he therefore expected those who are responsible for the infringements of the ceasefire on the separatists’ side to “return to the common ground that is Minsk”. Germany will also take steps to de-escalate the acute tension in the region, he went on:
We will do everything within our power to ensure that the Russian side is contacted as quickly as possible so that signals are sent to the separatists for them to cease hostilities and respect the ceasefire.
Klimkin: support for reforms is vital
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin thanked Steinmeier for his efforts in the peace negotiations, particularly with regard to the meetings in the Normandy format. In addition to observing the ceasefire, it is vitally important for the implementation of the Minsk agreements that the OSCE Mission be granted access to the contested regions in order to assess the situation, he said. The working groups of the Trilateral Contact Group are also an important instrument for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, he added.
Lastly, Klimkin requested support from the international community for the reforms initiated by the Ukrainian Government. Ukraine is facing great political and economic challenges that the country is barely able to master all by itself, he said.
At the end of the press conference, Steinmeier said that he would welcome Russia’s return to the old G8 format. The country’s exclusion is not an end in itself, he explained, but is rather on account of its infringement of international law by annexing Crimea. In view of the dramatic situation in Syria, Yemen and Libya, the world urgently needs Russia as a constructive partner to help solve entrenched conflicts. However, Moscow must also take the initiative to allow its return to the G8 format. Conditions for this include recognising the unity of Ukraine and implementing the Minsk agreements.