For over five years, an armed conflict has been raging in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian Army. The war has become a sad fact of everyday life for people in eastern Ukraine.
Since the start of the war, Germany has been working to achieve a peaceful solution and has held regular talks in the Normandy format between the parties to the conflict. The Minsk agreements have also been negotiated and provide a road map for resolving the conflict. For a long time, there has been no prospect of an end to the war. Now new momentum has been injected into the negotiations with the achievement of an important agreement between the parties to the conflict.
Progress in the negotiations
In particular, the contested status of the territories of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are not under the control of the Ukrainian Government, has repeatedly led to standstill in the efforts to bring about peace. The fact that the parties to the conflict were able to agree on the “Steinmeier formula” last week marks a crucial step.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented as follows:
“I am pleased that the constructive atmosphere within the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk today brought the progress for which we have long been hoping.”
What is the “Steinmeier formula”?
The formula is named after Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He suggested it in 2015 when he was still Foreign Minister. It deals with a particular aspect of the Minsk agreements whose interpretation had previously been disputed between the sides. This concerns the question of the chronological order between the entry into force of a special status law for the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk not under the control of the Government and the holding of elections. Under the formula, the special status law will provisionally enter into force on the day local elections are held and will become permanent following a positive evaluation of these elections by the OSCE’s election observation mission.
At the same time, the parties to the conflict were able to agree on the withdrawal of troops in some pilot zones in eastern Ukraine. This will also take eastern Ukraine a step forward on the path towards resolving the conflict.
What happens next?
However, there is still a long way to go as regards settling the conflict in Ukraine. Many questions on the implementation of the Minsk agreements still need to be resolved. For example, the parties to the conflict have yet to reach an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign and non-regular armed forces and what exactly the special status of the territories in eastern Ukraine will involve. These questions repeatedly lead to protests in Ukrainian society. Nevertheless, the agreement on the “Steinmeier formula” is an important step and shows that tenacious and sustained diplomatic endeavours pay off.