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KIEV, January 28. /TASS/. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, said they were ready to further coordinate efforts to continue top-level dialogue in the "Normandy format" (Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia), the press service of the Ukrainian head of state said on Wednesday.
"The sides discussed the situation in Donbass and ways of its peace settlement. The presidents of Ukraine and France, and the German chancellor noted that the Contact Group is an optimal format for peace talks and implementation of the Minsk agreements that were signed by all parties," the press service.
The three leaders also expressed confidence that immediate ceasefire by both parties and the release of prisoners of war were to be the next steps in peace settlement. "Further steps are to be pulling out troops and military hardware from the disengagement line fixed in the Minsk memorandum of September 19, 2014," the press service said.
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire at OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)-mediated talks on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk. On September 19 in Minsk, the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE 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. The document was signed by OSCE envoy Heidi Tagliavini, Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia’s Ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko and the head of Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), Igor Plotnitsky.