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German foreign minister confirms Donbass ceasefire holds

The ceasefire has been widely holding since midnight

VIENNA, September 15. /TASS/. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has confirmed that both parties to the conflict have observed the ceasefire in Donbass since midnight, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on its website on Thursday.

"I was encouraged to learn from the monitors that the ceasefire has been widely holding since midnight. This shows that the sides can control the situation if there is political willingness. The challenge now is to stabilize this truce. The sides will need to disengage and withdraw proscribed weapons in order to prevent hostilities from flaring up again," said Steinmeier, who is the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

"The SMM stands ready to monitor and facilitate this process," he added.

He stressed that both sides should "grant safe and unfettered access to the monitors throughout the conflict area." The presence of monitors in eastern Ukraine "makes a real difference, not least to the civilian population affected by this conflict."

On Thursday, Steinmeier and his French and Ukrainian counterparts, Jean-Marc Ayrault and Pavel Klimkin, arrived in Kramatorsk located on the territory of Donbass controlled by the Kiev forces. The trip to the conflict zone of the top EU diplomats is the first such visit since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

Steinmeier and Ayrault held talks in Kiev on Wednesday with their Ukrainian counterpart on the Minsk deal implementation. It was later announced that the German and French foreign ministers will visit Donbass on Thursday and meet with the OSCE representatives to discuss further steps on disengaging forces along the contact line.