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Normandy Four ministers reach no agreement on Donbass elections

March 04, 8:26 UTC+3 PARIS
No progress was reached on organizing elections in Donbass
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PARIS, March 4. /TASS/. The foreign ministerial meeting in the Normandy format (Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France) in Paris on Thursday discussed local elections in Donbass and ensuring security in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said no progress was reached on organizing the elections.

In the security sphere, the ministers welcomed agreements of the Contact Group in Minsk on mine clearance and banning firing exercises near the contact line. The sides also confirmed the need to strictly comply with the agreements on withdrawing weaponry.

Kiev opposes elections in Donbass

Lavrov said Paris and Berlin suggested holding elections in Donbass in June and Moscow was ready to back this initiative. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the polls should be held in the first half of 2016.

He said the elections should be carried out based on "the Ukrainian legislation and in line with international standards." The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe should receive proposals on ensuring security at elections by March 31, he stressed.

However, no consensus on the terms of organizing the elections was reached. Kiev opposed the proposal on holding the polls in June. In order to organize elections in Donbass, it is necessary solve security issues, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin told journalists in Paris.

"This should be complex security, and we can’t speak of elections without that," Klimkin said. "This relates not only to withdrawal of armaments, but the OSCE should have control of the Russian-Ukrainian border," he said.

Klimkin said the Normandy Four meeting in the French capital "did not see great progress." He said Kiev submitted a number of proposals and wants the raised questions to be addressed.

Agreements in security sphere need to be implemented

The ministers discussed security issues and the reports of OSCE representatives on violations.

Lavrov noted that the number of violations of Ukraine’s forces in regard to withdrawing weaponry is "significantly higher" than those of self-defense militias in Donbass.

The ministers welcomed the work on the ground and particularly efforts in the framework of cooperation as part of the joint ceasefire control center in Donbass, Lavrov said.

"Together with the OSCE mission an agreement was reached between the sides - Ukraine’s armed forces and Donbass - on mine clearance and on switching to certain steps that will allow beginning mine clearance in 12 priority areas," he said.

The Normandy Four has called to establish by April 30 a mechanism to prevent cases of truce violation in Donbass, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said following the meeting in Paris.

"We called to establish, in interaction with the OSCE, a mechanism to prevent and settle incidents connected with ceasefire regime violations by April 30, 2016," Ayrault said.

He said the Normandy Four ministers also called on all sides "to ensure access to the conflict zone for monitors." "This is necessary to determine those who are responsible for truce violation," the French foreign minister said.

Prisoner swap by late April

The Normandy Four group called on the conflicting sides in Donbass to carry out prisoner swap by April 30, Ayrault said.

"We also called for releasing and exchanging all prisoners and detained persons by April 30, 2016," he said.

This process needs to be carried out under international control, Ayrault said. "Access of international monitors to all the prisoners should be ensured."

The all-for-all prisoner swap and amnesty for all participants of the conflict in Donbass are envisaged by the package of measures on implementing the February 12, 2015 Minsk deal, a key document for peaceful settlement.

Talks at highest level

The leaders of the Normandy Four countries will be informed about the outcome of the meeting and the discussion of the issues may continue soon at the highest level in a phone conversation, Lavrov said.

"A telephone contact between our leaders in the Normandy format will be planned," Lavrov told reporters after the talks. Leaders of the Normandy Four countries control the implementation of the Minsk deal as was agreed on October 2 in Paris, he added. "The ministers were tasked with dealing with this.".

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