July 13, 2017

Merkel, Macron, Putin agree on ‘comprehensive’ implementation of Ukraine peace deal

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HAMBURG, Germany – The leaders of Germany, France and Russia have agreed that the Minsk agreements on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine “should be comprehensively implemented,” a German official tells RFE/RL.

The characterization of the meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, suggested no significant progress on efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.

Moscow’s role in fighting that began in April 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists prompted Western sanctions against Russia.

A 2015 ceasefire deal under the Minsk agreements was brokered by Germany and France – together with Russia and Ukraine – in a bid to end the fighting. But hostilities have continued in the war that has killed more than 10,000 people.

The United States and the European Union have accused Moscow and the separatists of failing to uphold their commitments under the Minsk agreements – including the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the frontlines in eastern Ukraine and restoration of Ukrainian-government control over border crossings with Russia.

Despite substantial evidence of Moscow’s support, Russia denies the accusations by Washington, Brussels, Ukraine and NATO that it is backing the separatists with troops and weaponry.

The Kremlin has also repeatedly accused the Ukrainian government of reneging on its obligations under the 2015 accord.

“There was agreement that the truce proposed in the Minsk agreements should be comprehensively implemented,” the German official told RFE/RL about the meeting between Ms. Merkel, Mr. Macron, and Mr. Putin.

A second German official told RFE/RL that the main goal of the working breakfast was to bring the recently elected French president up to speed on talks between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine about the implementation of the Minsk agreement, which was brokered by Mr. Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande.

That official also said that during the working breakfast with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron raised the issue of the safety of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who work in eastern Ukraine.

The United States on June 22 accused Russia-backed separatists there of a campaign of “violence and harassment” against the OSCE monitors aimed at preventing them from reporting truce violations.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the situation, describing the separatists as “Russian-led, Russian-funded and Russian-trained.”

Ms. Nauert said that on June 20, separatist forces fired at retreating OSCE vehicles carrying monitors.

In April, an American paramedic was killed and two OSCE monitors were wounded in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine when their vehicle hit explosives.

“The incidents are part of a broader effort to keep the international community from seeing what is happening in eastern Ukraine,” Ms. Nauert said.

Speaking in Moscow on July 8, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that implementation of the Minsk accords had been too slow and that a genuine ceasefire was necessary.

“There is an understanding that effective measures should be taken, which would lead to real ceasefire on the frontline and ensure military hardware withdrawal,” Mr. Peskov said.

The second German official told RFE/RL on July 8 that Berlin welcomed the appointment by Washington a day earlier of Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, as a special U.S. envoy to negotiate over the fate of war-racked Ukraine.

The official said Germany saw Ambassador Volker’s appointment as an attempt to complement the peace initiative spearheaded by Berlin and Paris.

Mr. Volker later accompanied U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on a trip to Kyiv for talks on July 9 with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

With reporting by Reuters and DPA.

Copyright 2017, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-merkel-macron-putin-talk-minsk-implementation/28603258.html).

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