Following the meeting of the German, French, Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers in Paris, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement:
Once again we have had really difficult, controversial discussions here in Paris this evening.
And, to be frank, we cannot be satisfied, either with the situation on the ground or with the outcome of this evening’s meeting.
After many hours of talks here in Paris today, at what was the 11th meeting of Foreign Ministers in the Normandy format, I can say this:
Nothing is easy. Every bit of progress in the Minsk process is difficult. We have to fight for every single detail of the Franco-German mediation proposals, and there’s a hard struggle between Russia and Ukraine.
Sometimes I also have the impression that Moscow and Kyiv forget how serious the situation is and what pressure we are under to implement Minsk faster, because otherwise our efforts risk losing their legitimacy and their credibility.
When it comes down to it, the parties to the conflict, Kyiv and Moscow, need to decide what they actually want – to let the conflict smoulder on and fester, with the constant danger of escalation, or to take courageous decisions at last and make the compromises necessary for Minsk to be a success.
Toddling little steps definitely aren’t enough any more to calm the situation, never mind overcome the conflict.
Today – rightly – the focus was on security and on curbing the violence which has recently flared up again along the line of contact. Because if there is no broadly stable ceasefire, there is a danger of renewed military and political escalation, which would undermine all further efforts to implement the agreements reached in Minsk.
However, we did manage to flag up a few pointers here today:
- The withdrawal of light and heavy weapons must be finalised and verified by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission.
- We had worked on that for a long time. I am pleased that agreement has been reached on a timetable and principles for mine clearance in twelve priority areas. This is to be implemented without delay.
- In operational terms, it is especially important that there is to be a separation of forces in those hotspots where, because the two sides’ troops have got too close to each other, there have been particularly frequent violations of the ceasefire recently. The necessary distance is to be restored. The Special Monitoring Mission will also closely observe and verify this separation of forces.
Whilst we made progress on security issues, we have in all honesty to admit that there wasn’t any real progress on any of the other questions, particularly the political issues.
In relation to election modalities, we had an intensive discussion of possible compromises for a law on local elections. It is clear that these elections cannot keep being postponed ad calendas graecas. They are an indispensable precondition for progress in the political process.
Interests in this regard are very complex. The 32 unsuccessful meetings of the Contact Group working group are eloquent testimony to the difficulties in reaching the necessary compromises. The truth is that the positions of the parties to the conflict still differ hugely. We expect to work all-out towards agreement over the next few weeks.
Finally, we discussed election security. This is crucial: without security, there can be no elections. We have asked the OSCE to develop a concept for the deployment of an international mission to help the parties to the conflict to create the necessary security. This concept is to be presented by the end of March.
All this marks progress, but limited progress. No more, but also no less. There was nothing more we could get out of today. More’s the pity.