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BERLIN, January 21. /TASS/. Foreign ministers of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France will hold another meeting in Berlin on Wednesday in a bid to make a breakthrough in the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis on the backdrop of dramatic aggravation of the situation in eastern Ukraine in the recent days.
Russian diplomat Viktor Sorokin, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s second CIS countries department, will represent Russia at a meeting of political directors of the four countries to be held ahead of the Normandy Quartet’s ministerial meeting.
It will be the second meeting of the Normandy Quartet’s foreign ministers in January. After their previous meeting on January 12, the ministers came out with a joint statement urging parties to the conflict to completely fulfill the Minsk agreements of the Contact Group and strictly observe the ‘regime of silence’ in the conflict zone declared on December 9, 2013.
The four ministers also looked at a possible top level meeting in the Kazakh capital city of Astana in late January. However they agreed that such meeting was to be preceded by another meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk to ensure conditions necessary for actual ceasefire, working out an agreement on terms and procedures for humanitarian aid, release of prisoners of war and the launch of the constitutional process involving all regional and political forces in Ukraine.
“Ministers of the 'Normandy format' countries will get together to discuss the prospects for and possible dates of a summit in Astana after a meeting of the Contact Group (for settling the civil conflict in eastern Ukraine) that we hope will meet in the coming few days," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists back then.
Subsequent developments however disproved positive expectations of the Normandy Quartet’s top diplomats.
No representatives from Kiev showed up at a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk on January 16. Envoys from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR, respectively) spent half a day in Minsk to leave empty-handed. As a reason behind its absence from Minsk, Kiev said the DPR and LPR were to be represented by their leaders but not their representatives.
Before that, Kiev turned down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s letter laying out a plan of the parties’ pull out of heavy artillery from the disengagement line.
More to it, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Yury Biryukov said on Sunday that the Ukrainian military had been ordered to open heavy fire at the positions of militias in the zone of the military operation in southeastern Ukraine. It meant that Kiev de facto violated the ‘regime of silence.’ DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko said that the city of Donetsk had been shelled by Ukrainian troops from all types of weapons.
Now that Kiev has resumed combat operation, the prospects for a meeting between the Normandy Quartet leaders in Astana don’t look probable, Russia president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “Such a meeting might be held only if its result is ensured,” he said.
The first meeting between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine took place in June 2014 in Normandy, which gave this format its name. Back then, the four leaders only laid a basis for a subsequent political process within the Contact Group on the settlement in eastern Ukraine.
The first Contact Group meeting was held in Belarusian capital Minsk on September 5. It involved representatives from Kiev, southeast Ukrainian regions, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Russia. The meeting yielded a peace settlement plan and a ceasefire agreement. On September 20 in Minsk, the Contact Group on Ukraine adopted a memorandum outlining the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.
The document contains nine points, including in particular a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibres of over 100 millimetres to a distance of 15 kilometres from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.