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Minsk to host security, political subgroups on settlement in south-eastern Ukraine

September 15, 2015, 6:16 UTC+3 MINSK

The working subgroups will gather three days after the foreign ministers of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, known as the Normandy Four, held talks in Berlin

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© Vadim Rymakov/TASS

MINSK, September 15. /TASS/. Subgroups on security and political issues of the Contact Group on settlement of the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine will convene in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on Tuesday.

The working subgroups will gather three days after the foreign ministers of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, known as the Normandy Four, held talks in Berlin noting then that they "managed to move forward on certain issues."

""What we have achieved today was a result of hard work and must be implemented by the Contact Group," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said then.

Along with this, the work of the Contact Group and its subgroups due to settle disputable issues will affect preparations for the Normandy Four summit in Paris on October 2.

Agreement on weapons withdrawal almost readied

Hopes have been pinned on the security group with expectations of a final agreement on withdrawal on weapons under 100mm calibre as the four-month work on the document has failed yet to gain any result.

Representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk said that Kiev’s stance used to disrupt the initialling of an agreed text. In particular, Vladislav Deinego, the envoy of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) at the talks, said that obstacles in the negotiations rooted in the gap between the sides’ views on the weapons pullback "from the so-called trouble spots, among which are the districts of Popasny, Baklhmutky and Schastye."

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following the Berlin meeting that the four foreign ministers "have called in favour of coordinating and signing at an early date the document on all the details concerning the withdrawal of weapons under 100mm calibre within the framework of the relevant working group on security in Minsk," he said noting that the subgroup would have to negotiate some significant nuances.

"We have heard the head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) who confirmed that the agreement is 90% ready. There are some details to be agreed," the minister said adding that "as usual, the devil hides in details."

At the same time, Lavrov noted that the agreement on weapons withdrawal "envisages very difficult verification by the OSCE SMM."

It could be made possible "if permanent points of the mission would be set up along the line of contact," the Ukrainian foreign minister echoed.

Political subgroup: solutions by Pierre Morel

Elections will remain in spotlight at the political subgroup as until now the issue has been the most problematic at the talks.

However, the talks in Berlin showed that points of coincidence may be found here.

"We welcomed the efforts made by the coordinator of the working group on political issues Mr. Pierre Morel," the Russian foreign minister said. "He offered the solutions. They do not fully satisfy the Ukrainian side, the Ukrainian government and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics. But our general impression is - this is the overall impression of Russia, France and Germany - that these differences can be overcome."

"We would like the relevant working group to hold additional consultations at an early date on the basis of the ideas expressed by OSCE coordinator Pierre Morel to make sure that the issue could also be resolved no later than October 2, when the Normandy Four summit is due to be held in Paris," Lavrov said.

Until now, Kiev has been upholding a dead-end position: Donbass should be granted a special status only after the elections while the elections will take place after the region stops resisting although the aim of resistance is actually legislative confirmation of the special status.

Along with this, in spite of the Minsk agreements prescribing to enter a dialogue on the modality of the elections with the republics’ representatives immediately after the withdrawal of heavy weapons and to hold these elections until the end of the year 2015, Kiev rejects both options.

Moreover, elections in the parts of Donbass, which are not under Kiev’s control, are not envisaged by the law on local elections approved by the Ukrainian parliament Verkhovna Rada in the summer. In these conditions the self-proclaimed republics announced they would hold the elections on their own and determined the dates for these elections. As Ukraine scheduled local elections for October 25, the DPR would vote on October 18 and the LPR - on November 1.

Kiev: OSCE ODIHR should join work of political subgroup

Following the Berlin talks, Kiev has made statements that may be viewed as certain progress in the context of elections. Thus, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry circulated a statement stressing the necessity "to begin immediately in the Contact Group discussing the modality of the local elections in certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on the basis of the Ukrainian legislation and the commonly recognised criteria of OSCE." That was what the participants of the Minsk process had been waiting from Kiev without success for many a month.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry suggested that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) may join the work of the political subgroup at the Contact Group on settlement of the crisis in Ukraine in the context of local elections organisation in Donbass.

"Of big importance in this context [organisation of local elections in certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions] is involvement in the work of the political subgroup of the OSCE’s ODIHR," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement published on Sunday.

At the same time, the DPR and LPR have refrained from comment on the initiative.

"I would not speak about the Contact Group but we have not received any proposals yet," LPR envoy at the Minsk talks Vladislav Deinego said on Monday.

The Normandy Four leaders’ talks on Ukraine

Talks of the Normandy Four (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) leaders on the Ukrainian issue took place for the first time in the Belarusian capital Minsk on February 12. Simultaneously, regular talks of the Contact Group on settlement of the Ukrainian crisis were held in Minsk on February 10-12.

The talks ended by adoption of a 13-point package of measures, which contained in particular a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, including enforcement of a special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

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