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Normandy Four agree to ban all military drills near contact line in Donbass — Lavrov

March 04, 4:35 UTC+3 PARIS
Talks of Normandy Four foreign ministers in Paris reached no consensus on holding elections in Donbass in June due to position of Ukraine
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Jean-Marc Ayrault

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Jean-Marc Ayrault

© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

PARIS, March 4. /TASS/. Foreign ministers of Normandy Four countries (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) paid great attention to security issues in Donbass at talks in Paris, Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov told reporters.

"We spent much time today to consider the situation in the security sphere," Lavrov said. The sides discussed the implementation of decisions taken in addition to the Minsk agreements on withdrawing heavy weapons and weapons with caliber under 100mm.

The top diplomats also considered reports of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission that registers violations of both parties, Lavrov said.

Lavrov noted that the number of violations of Ukraine’s forces in regard to withdrawing weaponry is "significantly higher" than those of self-defense militias in Donbass.

The ministers welcomed the work on the ground and particularly efforts in the framework of cooperation as part of the joint ceasefire control center in Donbass, Lavrov said.

"Together with the OSCE mission an agreement was reached between the sides - Ukraine’s armed forces and Donbass - on mine clearance and on switching to certain steps that will allow beginning mine clearance in 12 priority areas," he said.

Another document was on banning all drills and any actions related to firing near the contact line. "This will reduce the risk of provocations, the risk of unexpected or unintentional incidents. These are good agreements that need to be implemented," Lavrov stressed.

The sides also called for implementing other points of the Minsk agreements on ensuring security near the contact line.

No consensus on Donbass elections due to Ukraine’s stance

Talks of Normandy Four foreign ministers in Paris reached no consensus on holding elections in Donbass in June due to position of Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov went on to say.

Paris and Berlin suggested holding elections in Donbass this June, and Moscow is ready to accept the proposal, he said.

"The proposal to call on the sides at today’s meeting to agree based on the Minsk documents on holding local elections in Donbass in the first half of the year by June or July came from our German and French colleagues," Lavrov said.

"We were ready to support it," he said. "But the Ukrainian side asked not to insist on this and finally, there was no consensus."

First step needed

Lavrov said the issues on holding elections in Donbass were discussed in detail at the meeting. "We spoke a lot on political aspects of the Minsk agreements, first of all in the context of the need to take the first step in an interrelated chain of actions that includes a law on Donbass special status, constitutional reform and holding local elections," he said.

Amnesty is also needed "so that people vote and are elected not under threat of criminal persecution but as free citizens." "For this it is important that constitutional reform is guaranteed," Lavrov said.

"All this was agreed by our leaders on October 2, 2015 in Paris, but unfortunately, no progress has been made on the most important issue for the settlement - preparing for the elections."

Dialogue between Kiev, Donbass needed

Lavrov also said that at talks in Paris, Russia drew attention to the fact that direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass is the basis of the Minsk process but no such talks have yet taken place.

"Unfortunately, now we see no such a direct dialogue, first of all due to Kiev’s unwillingness to engage in it," Lavrov said.

Kiev again sought not to recognize that the Minsk agreements were signed by Donbass representatives and said that issues linked to special status will be solved when somebody else comes to power the region.

Lavrov said there is nothing new about these statements. "Officials, members of government and the Verkhovna Rada constantly say that when there are new authorities accepted by Kiev then we say about special status and constitutional reform. Some say that constitutional reform is not needed and it will never take place."

"Unfortunately, all this affects our work as part of the Normand Four," he said.

Moscow, Berlin, Paris call for sequence of actions

Berlin and Paris share Moscow’s stance that the sequence of actions included in the Minsk deal and confirmed at talks of the Normandy Four leaders in October 2015 is inviolable, Russia’s top diplomat said.

This sequence of actions means that elections need to be held, a law on Donbass special status has to come into force on a permanent basis and this special status should be confirmed by the constitution. Amnesty needs to be also declared based on the law that was passed by the parliament but was not signed by President Pyotr Poroshenko, he added.

About telephone conversation

Sergey Lavrov added that a telephone conversation between the leaders of the Normandy format countries may take place soon.

"A telephone contact between our leaders in the Normandy format will be planned," Lavrov told reporters after the talks of foreign ministers in Paris.

Leaders of the Normandy Four countries control the implementation of the Minsk deal as was agreed on October 2 in Paris, he added. "The ministers were tasked with dealing with this.".

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