Germany said thereâ€™s little progress in fulfilling a peace deal for Ukraine signed a year ago and called on the parties to the conflict to step up efforts after four- nation talks with Ukraine, Russia and France.
While the intensity of fighting has declined, â€œwe are still quite far off from implementingâ€ the accord, said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Munich on Saturday. â€œThe unresolved points are easy to name, but remain difficult to solve.â€
The four countries which negotiated the Feb. 12, 2015, peace agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, agreed to hold another meeting in early March, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said. Saturdayâ€™s talks focused on access for international monitors to the conflict zone, he told reporters. More than 9,000 people have died and several million have fled their homes during nearly two years of fighting in eastern Ukraine, sparking the worst crisis between Russia and its former Cold War adversaries since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The European Union and US have imposed sanctions on Russia, deepening a recession provoked by the collapse in oil prices.
The Ukraine ceasefire remains shaky a year after the peace deal. International monitors this month warned of an increase in violence as insurgents keep observers out of border areas where Ukraine suspects heavy weapons and Russian troops remain. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, beset by economic troubles and divisions within his government, is still expected to deliver on a pledge for more autonomy to pro-Russian secessionists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Ukraine for refusing to coordinate directly with rebel representatives on implementing the ceasefire, instead relying on the Russian military as a go-between. â€œThis is absolutely counterproductive and is based on ideological reasons,â€ he told reporters after the talks in Munich.
Lavrov called on Ukraine to implement constitutional reforms to grant permanent status to the rebel-controlled Donbass region and an amnesty for insurgents as foreseen under the Minsk peace accord.
â€œIâ€™m counting on those responsible in Kiev and Moscow to understand that we donâ€™t have foreverâ€ to fulfill the peace agreementâ€™s provisions, Steinmeier said. â€œWe must not let up in our efforts to press the parties to the conflict to take further steps.â€ The EU will review its sanctions in June, while the US measures will remain in place until repealed.