BERLIN/KIEV: The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin yesterday to hold three-way talks involving pro-Moscow rebels by Saturday to pave the way for a new ceasefire, despite continued fighting that Kiev says has now killed 200 of its troops.
“It is a clear commitment to a multilateral ceasefire,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after talks with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Russia and Ukraine continued to blame each other for the violence that marred the 10-day ceasefire, which Kiev declared over on Monday before resuming its military offensive against separatists in the east, many of whom had ignored the truce.
But Lavrov told a joint news conference alongside Klimkin and the two others that they had agreed to work for a “stable, long-term truce”.
“We propose to achieve this through a meeting soon of the Contact Group, which — we hope — will hold a meeting in coming days and agree on the conditions for truce that would satisfy all sides,” said the Russian minister. That group, representing Ukraine, Moscow and the rebels, with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mediation, should meet “no later than July 5th with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable ceasefire”, said a document agreed by all four ministers.
Klimkin added a note of caution, saying hostages must be released and Ukraine allowed to control its borders to stop the rebels receiving fresh fighters and weapons. The document said Russia made a commitment to allow Ukrainian border guards across checkpoints in Gukovo and Donetsk to control this. “The de-escalation of the situation will happen when the peace plan of the Ukrainian president is respected in its totality,” said Klimkin.
Lavrov said Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s decision to end the ceasefire had cost “people’s lives and serious destruction of civilian infrastructure ... but better late than never”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned Moscow shortly before the talks that economic sanctions remained an option unless it backed peace efforts. REUTERS