We have now met in the Normandy Format seven times, five of them here in Berlin. In all of these meetings there has been heated discussion, and this time it was no different.
But at least I can say with some relief that today’s meeting was one of the less confrontational and more successful.
However, today’s consultations also showed, even now, how arduous and difficult it is to make any headway and that any progress made can be jeopardised time and again. What we achieved today was hard work, and will remain so, and this will now have to be implemented by the Contact Group.
What have we agreed on?
We jointly reaffirmed that the ceasefire which has held for two weeks now must be further stabilised and secured.
We will achieve that with our firm commitment to the agreement on the withdrawal of weapons from the conflict zone. Agreements between Kyiv and Moscow under OSCE mediation will be concluded shortly.
Our message to the Trilateral Contact Group’s working group on security is therefore that the agreement on the withdrawal of lighter weapons and armoured vehicles must be finalised and implemented as quickly as possible. The positions of the two sides are not far apart. The working group should aim to reach an agreement at its next meeting.
Furthermore, it was agreed that no more mines should be laid and that efforts to clear mines should be undertaken.
The assurance that the OSCE will have free and unhindered access to the entire conflict zone will help ensure that.
II Political process
We also made considerable progress today in key issues in the political process. Finally, I would say, for this is key to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The modalities and the timetable for the local elections will be worked out in the Trilateral Contact Group’s working group on political affairs. It will focus on the proposals put forward by Pierre Morel, the coordinator of this working group, and the Minsk Protocol.
All other remaining contentious and difficult issues concerning the election process, status issues and constitutional reform should now be discussed quickly in the Contact Group’s working group on political affairs.
The proposals on this are on the table and, in our view, provide a good basis for the upcoming decisions.
III Humanitarian and economic issues
We have to start thinking about the coming winter. We do not want to see a repeat of last winter’s humanitarian emergency.
There was therefore broad agreement that concrete further steps would not only be useful but are absolutely necessary.
We will therefore ensure that humanitarian relief organisations are granted full access to people in the conflict areas.
The remaining time should also be used to launch the projects we proposed on reconstruction and the restoration of economic ties as soon as possible.
Particularly with regard to the water supply, much remains to be done. We all want to see this addressed promptly. It should now be possible to open further access points.
It remains the case that the Minsk process will stand or fall with the political will of the parties to the conflict to honour the agreements reached in Minsk in February.
Today’s meeting as well as the meeting of Heads of State and Chancellor Merkel scheduled to take place in Paris at the start of October show – despite all the difficulties – that this will is still there.
We must and can build on that now.