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Russia’s chief negotiator says ready to come to Minsk to attend Contact Group meetings

February 08, 19:32 UTC+3
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MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. Russia’s chief negotiator at Ukraine settlement talks Boris Gryzlov said on Monday he is ready to come to the Belarusian capital city of Minsk anytime to attend Contact Group meetings.

"At the Contact Group’s latest meeting, we agreed to continue on Friday, February 12," he told journalists, adding the next round of consultations would be held in a videoconference format. "But the Russian side is ready for personal meetings. If necessary, I am ready to fly to Minsk any day," he stressed.

Earlier on Monday, the Belarusian foreign ministry said Minsk was prepared to host meetings of three subgroups of the Contact Group for settling the crisis in eastern Ukraine scheduled for this week. The ministry said however that the meeting of the trilateral Contact Group, composed of representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was not been scheduled. "On Tuesday, February 9, a meeting of the working group for political issues will begin. Then on Wednesday, February 10, the groups for economic and security issues are expected to join it," the ministry said.

Gryzlov confirmed that the Contact Group continued its work as had been previously scheduled. "Among the priority tasks today are issues linked with security. Thus, demining works are being continued," he said, adding that issues of ceasefire monitoring were high on the agenda.

"An issue which requires special attention is prisoner exchange," the Russian negotiator stressed. In his words, the sides had reached agreements concerning the operation of crossing points at the line of engagement. "So, we have a very busy agenda," he added.

He reminded that Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) had changed the dates for consideration of amendments to the Ukrainian constitution. "But the strategic priority of the Minsk process is further efforts towards a comprehensive political settlement," Gryzlov said.

"A constitutional reform, as part of the implementation of the Minsk agreements, requires legal establishment of Donbass’ special status," he underscored. For these ends, Ukraine must amend articles 1,2 and 10 of the law on the procedure of local self-government in certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of September 16, 2014. These amendments, in his words, were needed to gradually create legislative framework for Donbass’ special status under the ‘Steinmeier formula.’

"These amendments are to be agreed with Donbass in the ‘Minsk format’ at a Contact Group meeting. It is vital in this context to see to it that the rest of the articles (from 3 to 9) remain unchanged," the Russian negotiator underscored.

"Second, it is necessary to ensure that Ukraine’s constitution has a legal formula to guarantee that provision 18 of the constitution’s transitional provisions refers to the current edition of the special status law (the one agreed by the sides). It is also necessary to amend the constitution with a provision guaranteeing that the competences of officials elected in Donbass under the special status law are not terminated in 2017, as constitutional amendments passed in the first ready envisage for the rest of Ukraine," he said.

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising senior representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the European security watchdog OSCE on February 12, 2015, signed a 13-point Package of Measures to fulfil the September 2014 Minsk agreements. The package was agreed with the leaders of the Normandy Four, namely Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.

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