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"Normandy Quartet" confirms adherence to Minsk-2 and calls for de-escalation

June 24, 2015, 4:55 UTC+3 PARIS
The foreign ministers unanimously spoken against attempts to disrupt the Minsk accords and bring the situation in Donbass to a military scenario
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© EPA/SOEREN STACHE

PARIS, June 24. /TASS/. The meeting of "Normandy Quartet" (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine) foreign ministers has taken place in the French capital on Tuesday and finished at midnight Moscow time. The ministers confirmed their adherence to the Minsk agreements and called for de-escalation and ceasefire in Donbass.

After the meeting that lasted for more than three hours, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement for Russian journalists. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with German press. The final communique was announced by the host - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin only wrote a short comment on his Twitter microblog.

Adherence to Minsk-2

The four foreign ministers confirmed their adherence to the Minsk agreements that were reached at a meeting of "Normandy Quartet" leaders in February 2015. "The ministers confirmed that France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine still adhere to continue working in this format [Minsk-2] and intend to do everything possible to guarantee complying with commitments to solve the crisis," the final statement said.

Commenting on results of the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the foreign ministers of the "Normandy Quartet" have unanimously spoken against attempts to disrupt the Minsk accords and bring the situation in Donbass to a military scenario.

"There is a feeling that there are forces that want to disrupt the process. I will not name them. Many [forces] prefer a military scenario for different reasons. Some [forces] want for the situation not to improve, but on the opposite, to deteriorate," Lavrov said.

"All four ministers firmly spoke against such attempts, and in favor of Minsk-2 to remain the basis of joint efforts," he added. "My colleagues from Germany and France, in particular, stressed that there is no alternative to Minsk-2," Lavrov concluded.

Dialogue and de-escalation

Lavrov also noted that the foreign ministers of the "Normandy Quartet" have stressed the relevance of stabilizing the military situation in Ukraine’s south-east and establishing a direct dialogue between Kiev and self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics (DPR and LPR).

"We stated that, first of all, the whole package of measures from February 12 remains in force exactly as a package, that it is important to move in all directions, not necessarily linking one thing with another, but necessarily facilitating movement forward on every point that was outlined in the package of measures," Lavrov said.

"Secondly, we devoted most of our time today to the issue of establishing a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk on the implementation of key provisions of the Misnk accords, in all spheres without exceptions, including military and political sphere, security, economy, humanitarian and political reforms," he added.

"We noted that, though moving forward in all directions is very important, the task of stabilizing the military and security situation remains especially relevant," Lavrov said. "Unfortunately, violations of ceasefire occur more often, and there are also many violations by the sides in what concerns withdrawing heavy weaponry," he noted.

"We call for fast de-escalation and immediate ceasefire that will facilitate progress in the political sphere, as well as in humanitarian and social and economic spheres," Fabius said in a statement.

The ministers also urged the sub-group on security to reach an agreement by June 26 on withdrawing tanks and other weapons of less than 100mm caliber. "The withdrawal should start in the nearest weeks," the final communique said.

Demilitarization of Shirokino

The foreign ministers of the "Normandy Quartet" have spoken in favor of soonest demilitarization of Shirokino settlement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

There are several technical details left for coordination in the issue of demilitarization of Shirokino and withdrawal of heavy weapons of less than 100mm caliber, Lavrov said.

The final communique said it is necessary "to complete the demilitarization of Shirokino as a first step on the way to broader demilitarization along the contact line."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinemeier said that the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission will soon go to the settlement of Shirokino where fighting still continues. The mission will make a report for the "Normandy Quartet" after the trip.

The Contact Group on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine regularly discusses the issue of establishing a demilitarized zone in Shirokino. This is also supported by OSCE and Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC). However, there has been no positive results so far. DPR defense ministry says the settlement is regularly shelled by the Ukrainian forces. Around 30 people currently live in Shirokino, according to local administration.

Removing obstacles for international organizations

The final statement reminded that "the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] plays the key role in the process of de-escalation."

"We also stress the necessary role that is played by OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in preparations for local election. We also stress the importance of establishing a political dialogue between Ukraine and representatives of separate parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions," the communique said.

The ministers called for the sides in the conflict to "stop restricting access of OSCE monitors because it hampers the process of heavy weaponry withdrawal and contradicts the Minsk accords."

The "Normandy Quartet" also called for "removing all barriers hampering the delivery of aid to the zone of conflict and urgently launching cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross in order to achieve concrete results and ease the suffering of the people."

Minsk agreements on Ukraine

The Minsk accords on the Ukrainian settlement were signed on February 12, after negotiations in the so-called "Normandy format" in the Belarusian capital Minsk, bringing together Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko. The talks lasted for around 14 hours. Simultaneously, a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukrainian settlement was held in Minsk.

The Minsk agreements envisage ceasefire, heavy weaponry withdrawal, prisoner exchange, local elections in Donbass, constitutional reform in Ukraine and establishing working sub-groups on security, political, economy and humanitarian components of the Minsk accords.

The Ukrainian forces and the self-defense forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics have repeatedly accused each other of violating ceasefire and other points of the Minsk agreements.

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