At the invitation of his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday evening (23 June). The foreign ministers reiterated their support for the Minsk agreements and called for a local ceasefire in the village of Shyrokyne, where fighting has broken out again. This ceasefire could then serve as a role model for the region.
On Tuesday evening, the French, German, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met for further talks. Their meeting took place in the French capital, Paris. The reason for the meeting in what is called the Normandy format was the recent rise in military clashes in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
De-escalation in Shyrokyne as a role model for the region
Following in-depth talks between the four foreign ministers, French Foreign Minister Fabius issued a declaration in which the foreign ministers reiterated their support for the Minsk agreements of 12 February 2015 and called for an immediate ceasefire. They said that the first step on the path to greater demilitarisation of the conflict could be a de-escalation plan for Shyrokyne, a village close to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol where there is heavy fighting. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said:
We now have to see if this is actually accepted on the ground. If it is accepted, it could be possible to reach agreement on a local ceasefire in Shyrokyne that can also serve as a role model for the region.
Steinmeier: “There must be movement in the right direction”
In their declaration, the foreign ministers called once again for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, a comprehensive exchange of prisoners and unimpeded access for OSCE observers and deliveries of relief supplies. They also discussed potential joint projects to repair destroyed bridges and damaged water lines in eastern Ukraine.
At the end of the talks, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement:
We need the Minsk agreements to be implemented. We do not require everything to happen at the same time, but there must be movement in the right direction. If meetings like this one today help us to make even a tiny amount of progress, then they fulfil their purpose.
Concern about the situation in eastern Ukraine
Before leaving for the meeting in Paris, Foreign Minister Steinmeier reiterated his concern about the situation in eastern Ukraine. He warned that “the severe crisis in eastern Ukraine is far from over. All parties to the conflict must help to prevent military escalation reaching the point at which it spirals out of control, in military and subsequently political terms.”
He added that a “robust ceasefire”, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and free access for the OSCE observers are all key prerequisites for further steps towards a political solution to the conflict such as local elections, humanitarian assistance and economic recovery.