Foreign Minister Steinmeier today (22 December 2016) issued the following comment on the statement of the Trilateral Contact Group reaffirming the commitment to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as of 24 December:
The fact that, yesterday in Minsk, the Trilateral Contact Group reached agreement on a cessation of all hostilities during Christmas along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine is very good news. Considering that fighting recently escalated around the town of Debaltseve, and in view of the approaching holidays, this agreement sends an important signal.
The Christmas truce, which is to go into effect at zero hours on 24 December, would bring some relief to people in the areas affected by the conflict, especially regarding the fact that winter is setting in and the humanitarian situation is particularly precarious.
Further steps that the parties to the conflict must take include the swift disengagement of forces, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and ensuring unhindered access by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to the entire conflict area.
Moreover, I call on all sides to already this year begin with the agreed exchange of detained persons, particularly as regards the weakest detainees.
At yesterday’s meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, the sides reached agreement, thanks to OSCE mediation efforts, on reaffirmation of their commitment to a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire, starting at zero hours on 24 December. They also reaffirmed their firm commitment to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and to continue the Minsk process in 2017.