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MINSK, December 24. /TASS/. A next meeting of the Contact Group on the settlement of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine is due to take place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Wednesday.
The news that a meeting could take place on December 24 and 26 came on Monday after a telephone conversation of the Ukrainian, German, French and Russian presidents.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin confirmed plans to convene a meeting on December 24. “But we don’t know whether one session will be enough,” he said.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry also confirmed that preparations were under way. “Technically, Minsk is fully ready for a session of the Contact Group on Ukraine,” spokesman Dmitry Mironchik said, adding that a session would be held behind closed doors.
All parties seeking the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine have been looking to a new meeting after the previous two held in September reached major progress towards a dialogue. The sides in the Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire at talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
The ceasefire took effect the same day but has reportedly been violated. The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE adopted a memorandum on September 19 in Minsk, which outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.
However, most of the document’s nine points have not been translated into practice.
With an aim to return to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the sides in the conflict announced on December 9 a “silence regime” in the zone of the military operation in Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk regions). Both Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) stated it was necessary to start the disengagement of heavy weaponry, to carry out prisoner swaps and demilitarize the region.
These issues are still top on the agenda of the conflict settlement.
Meanwhile, the agenda of a next round of talks in Minsk was “a sticking point” preventing the parties from fixing the date. On December 17, Vladislav Deinego, envoy of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) to the Minsk talks, said the republic was ready for talks only if revocation of Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s decrees on social and economic blockade of Donbass and enactment of laws on a special status of the region and amnesty were put on the agenda.
Last week, Russia’s OSCE Ambassador Andrei Kelin said four issues were considered in the run-up to the Minsk talks. “They are the disengagement of heavy weaponry, an exchange of forcibly held persons, humanitarian aid, and the economic block of problems including resumption of economic relations between East-Ukrainian regions and Kiev,” Kelin said.
No documents that could be signed at the meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine in Minsk are yet ready, the negotiator of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, Vladislav Deinego, said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on Monday, LNR leader Igor Plotnitsky said he and DNR leader Alexander Zakharchenko would be ready to personally take part in the Minsk talks if a document with clear parameters of the agreements was coordinated by the start of the talks. If this document was not coordinated, their representatives would go, he said.
DNR representatives have signaled their readiness to take part in the Minsk talks. DNR’s envoy to Minsk talks Denis Pushilin expressed hope the meeting would not be postponed. “It is necessary to meet, the sooner the better,” he said.
The announcement of the “silence regime” on December 9 in the conflict zone in Donbass has given Russia hope that a new truce would be effective.
At a major news conference in Moscow last week, President Vladimir Putin called the sides in the conflict for a political dialogue, in which Russia was ready to mediate.
He said the problem was that both sides - the Kiev authorities and the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, should seek such a dialogue. However, they were not meeting each other halfway, failing to implement in full the agreements reached by the contact Group in Minsk, he said.
According to Putin, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko seeks to implement the Minsk agreement, but “he is not alone in Ukraine, and appeals are heard for the use of force in the settlement of the problem”. Having stressed that peace must be restored in Ukraine and the settlement must be political, Putin urged the sides to complete the prisoner swap on the “all for all” formula before the New Year.