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“Need an end to the fighting to make political progress“

16.09.2016 - Interview

The day after his trip to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gives an interview on the current ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Published in the Bild newspaper on 16 September 2016.

Is there now peace in Ukraine?

That is our goal but we’re not there yet unfortunately. Nevertheless, since midnight yesterday there has been calm on both sides of the front-line – that hasn’t happened for a long time. The OSCE monitors in eastern Ukraine have confirmed the ceasefire. It was important that we were able to mediate this ceasefire during my time in Kyiv with my French colleague. After all, we need an end to the fighting to make political progress. We have a lot of work to do before the Minsk agreement is implemented in its entirety.

Why should this ceasefire work better than the last one?

Whether or not this ceasefire holds, depends entirely on the political will of the conflicting parties! Our job is to make proposals on how to make this cessation of hostilities into a lasting ceasefire. That is what we have been doing in recent weeks and months through intensive shuttle diplomacy. The primary goal: disengaging the combat units, withdrawing heavy weapons, unhindered control by the OSCE monitors. Given that both sides have experienced a complete loss of trust, this is much more difficult than it might initially seem. But the arrangements are now ready to be signed. I expect all parties to the conflict to stick to this in the Contact Group next week. President Poroshenko pledged Ukraine’s agreement and Moscow is also sending positive signals.

Does this mean the Minsk peace plan has had its day?

No. All this is part of the Minsk agreement. It remains the basis for our efforts. It’s the best we’ve got and remains the right road map for overcoming the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Security and political progress are inextricably linked. If the ceasefire holds, we can also move forward in the political process. And vice versa. That is what we are working on – with great determination.

Is this a ceasefire so to speak by the grace of Putin?

For a ceasefire, you need the political will on both sides. It doesn’t work without Moscow. No matter what the motives may be for the two sides to halt hostilities now: I’m glad it happened because it creates some scope to tackle the difficult questions still to be resolved if we are to bring about real peace.

Is Russia now staying out of Ukraine?

The call for the separatists to cease hostilities did come from Moscow. We are negotiating directly with Russia in the “Normandy“ format and not with the separatists. My French colleague and I tirelessly emphasised in Kyiv that Ukraine’s unity and independence are for us not up for debate.

Interview conducted by Hanno Kautz

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