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“We hope that the first meeting of the contact group will be held in a month in Geneva,” Kanerva said after a meeting in Moscow with Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
The contact group of the OSCE PA on Ukraine was established in late June at a session of the OSCE PA in Baku on Naryshkin’s initiative. It is supposed to comprise 10-12 representatives of the organization’s member states.
The key goals of the participants will be to work out recommendations on peace settlement in Ukraine and to inform the OSCE of events in Ukraine’s embattled southeast. The first meeting of the group was supposed to take place in September-October.
Kanerva said the key problem that hinders prompt organization of the group’s first meeting is that Ukraine will soon hold parliamentary elections. “Many participants of the group, parliamentarians state that they can’t come,” he said.
Kanerva said Europe appreciates Russia’s initiative to establish the contact group on Ukraine. He said 12 countries, in particular, their parliamentary representatives, will take part in it, adding that three times as many states expressed their willingness to work as part of the association.
He said great hopes are pinned on the work of this group, noting efforts by Naryshkin and State Duma international affairs committee head Alexei Pushkov to promote the initiative.
In turn, Naryshkin confirmed that Russia’s initiative on establishment of the OSCE PA contact group on Ukraine was discussed in detail on Friday. He said the process of the group's establishment is ongoing. “We hope it will be created and will start working; we are pinning great hopes on it,” he said.
Earlier Friday, at the meeting with Kanerva, Naryshkin said the Ukrainian side is slowing down the work of the contact group. “We expected the contact group to be promptly formed and start working because time cannot be lost and each day in the southeast of Ukraine takes people’s lives,” he said.
“But our Ukrainian partners seem to be unready yet for constructive and prompt work. As far as I understand, they are certainly restraining the formation of this contact group,” the State Duma speaker said.
Kiev's operation, conducted since mid-April, has employed armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s war-torn southeast.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a seven-item plan to settle the crisis in Ukraine after a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday.
The plan, posted on the Kremlin’s website, in particular calls for an end of active offensive operations by armed militia groups in southeast Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas and withdrawal of Ukrainian army units to a distance that would make it impossible to fire on populated areas using artillery and multiple launch rocket systems.
It also calls for full and objective international monitoring of compliance with the ceasefire and monitoring of the situation in the safe zone created by the ceasefire, for an exchange of individuals detained by force on an ‘all for all’ basis without any preconditions and for opening humanitarian corridors and humanitarian aid supplies to affected areas.
A protocol on cessation of fire and a 12-point peace plan were signed at a meeting of the already existing trilateral Russia-Ukraine-OSCE Contact Group on Ukraine in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Friday, meeting participants told journalists during a break.