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Foreign ministers' meeting on Ukraine reaches cautious progress

January 22, 2015, 9:28 UTC+3 BERLIN
Russia’s, Germany’s, Ukraine’s and France’s foreign ministers have succeeded in negotiating a statement on withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact stipulated in the Minsk agreements
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BERLIN, January 22. /TASS/. A Berlin meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France has ended with definite shifts rather than with a considerable progress necessary for ceasing fire in war-torn Donbass.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ukraine’s Pavel Klimkin and France’s Laurent Fabius have succeeded in negotiating a statement on the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact stipulated in the Minsk agreements on September 19 as well as on intensifying the Contact Group’s work.

Still, the decision to hold a summit in “Normandy format” that Kazakhstan is ready to host has not been taken yet.

The joint statement adopted after the meeting says that an appeal for a ceasefire is not implemented while measures to alter the situation are listed.

“The key decision adopted today and reflected in the joint statement is a powerful support to the task of urgent withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact, which was stipulated in the Minsk agreements, in particular in the Minsk memorandum of September 19,” Lavrov said.

“It is exactly the same Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed in his letter to [Ukraine’s President] Petro Poroshenko on January 15,” he said. “We hope support of the initiative by the foreign ministers in ‘Normandy format’ will allow to implement it.”

“A recommendation was adopted that the Contact Group embracing militias, Kiev authorities, Russia and OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) should intensify its work so as to fully implement the Minsk agreements and to set up a necessary number of working sub-groups,” he said.

Lavrov connected prospects for the “Normandy Quartet” summit with implementation of the goals set at the negotiations, first with the withdrawal of heavy weapons. However, there is no final decision to the issue.

“A joint opinion is that if progress can be seen in the end of hostilities, in ceasing fire and in stopping shelling of residential areas and if there emerges progress in withdrawal of heavy weapons, then the summit in Astana will be in demand,” Lavrov said adding “recommendations will be formulated later.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a separate briefing that “Finally there was an agreement reached today that the demarcation line, mentioned in the Minsk protocol, will be the line from which the withdrawal of heavy weaponry should start now,” Steinmeier said adding the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany had reached an agreement on convening a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine in the foreseeable future.

“A lot depends on the question if that what we have agreed on will not only remain printed paper,” he said.

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