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Message from Minsk talks positive but key issues still to be addressed - analysts

February 12, 2015, 15:53 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Ceasefire in the east of Ukraine as of 00:00 of February 15 and the pull-back of heavy weapons away from the conflicting parties’ line of engagement is the minimum effect of the just-ended overnight marathon talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, which have left many key questions unanswered, polled analysts have told TASS.

"The outcome of the Minsk negotiations is no reason yet to say peace has been restored to Ukraine, although the ceasefire arrangement is definitely a positive signal. Truce is to take effect in 60 hours’ time, so there is the fear that in the remaining days hostilities may flare up with renewed force, with either conflicting party trying to gain control of a greater territory," the director of the RAS Institute of US and Canada Studies, Sergey Rogov, has told TASS.

"A number of provisions in the Contact Group’s documents is open to interpretations. For instance, the status of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk Republics remains suspended. There are no provisions for introducing a UN or OSCE peace-keeping contingent to the buffer zone. And there is no clarity over how the United States will react to the outcome of the talks," Rogov said.

"The participants in the Normandy format meeting managed to address the most burning issues — a ceasefire and pullout of heavy armaments. But who will enforce the implementation of that agreement? Who will control this process? Who will pull the emergency brake to stop war? I do not think that the Ukrainian forces or the Donetsk and Luhansk militias will agree to do that voluntarily," the chief of the RAS International Security Centre, Aleksei Arbatov, has told TASS.

"For the time being nothing has been said about the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent to the east of Ukraine, although this theme had been mentioned on the eve of the talks. This means that the Minsk summit failed to produce an agreement on that score," the analyst said.

"Also, there are very big doubts over whether the 6,000-8,000 Ukrainian troops encircled in Debaltsevo will lay down arms and stop resistance, while the negotiators in Minsk proceeded precisely from that assumption. I suspect that the Ukrainian president dismissed that condition as unacceptable," Arbatov said.

"Given the high level of the just-ended talks there had been hopes not just for an end to bloodshed, but for a fundamental declaration regarding Ukraine’s relations with Russia and the European Union. Those expectations have proved unduly exaggerated, which causes both disappointment and great fear for the further march of events in the region. It remains to be seen if the ceasefire, due to take effect as of February 15 midnight, will not prove just a brief lull to be followed by another escalation of the conflict," Arbatov said.

"If the US president succumbs to pressures from Congress and the military, the just-concluded Minsk agreements will be disrupted. If hostilities around Debaltsevo go on, there will follow no disengagement of the warring parties at other sections of the frontline," he believes.

"The ceasefire agreement is surely an important outcome of the talks in Minsk, no denying that. But one and all should remember the root cause that sparked the hostilities in the south-east of Ukraine: Kiev’s refusal to carry out a constitutional reform. The people of Donbas insisted on the decentralization of power, on declaring Russian a second state language and Ukraine’s non-aligned status, something Russia is keenly interested in. Now, if the latest agreements achieved in Minsk manage to be implemented, Kiev and the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk Republics will face the need for holding a constitutional reform. It is not accidental that immediately after declaring the ceasefire agreement had been achieved Putin pointed to the need for a constitutional reform in the interests of the people," the honorary president of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, Sergey Karaganov, told TASS.

"It would be good if at the macro-level the Normandy format participants drafted a new European charter that would put an end to the new Cold War the Ukrainian crisis has brought about," said Karaganov, a member of the OSCE Council of Wise Men.

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