"We also discussed the humanitarian aspect of the situation. We agreed that there must be more border crossings [between mainland Ukraine and self-proclaimed Donbass republics], humanitarian access for different organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, must be improved and that prisoners must be exchanged faster," the French leader said.
Hollande was speaking in Paris in the wake of the four-way Normandy Format talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko. The group came together to assess the progress on the Minsk peace deal to end bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.
A serious progress has been achieved in the implementation of Minsk agreements on Ukraine reconciliation in terms of security issues, Hollande said.
"In terms of security, a significant progress has been achieved in the implementation of the Minsk agreements. In general, these agreements are being implemented and step by step we managed to secure weapons withdrawal, managed to make some headway, which allows us to avoid victims in the future."
Donbass Elections Must be Held Under Ukrainian Law
"The elections must be held under Ukrainian law. It is necessary that these elections are organized within the framework of a working group, that the results of these elections are unquestionable," Hollande said.
"We will call on the interested parties to take part in this process," the French leader added.
Law on Donbass Special Status Must Take Effect Immediately After Election
"With regard to the status of the eastern regions [of Ukraine], to the so-called special law for these areas, we have agreed that this law will be applied since the day of the elections. First, it will be temporary, and then it will go into a permanent phase when it will be clear that the [results of the local] elections are indisputable."
The implementation of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine will take longer than it was originally planned, Hollande added.
"Yes, it is likely to take longer, and we discussed it today as well," Hollande said.
"We agreed that the foreign ministers will convene in early November to discuss progress in the Minsk deals implementation," Hollande added.
Winter Gas Package for Ukraine to be Eventually Signed
French President Francois Hollande expressed confidence that a deal on Russian natural gas deliveries to Ukraine during the peak winter season will be eventually signed.
"They [agreements] were initialed and will be signed, and they must be implemented on the previously agreed conditions," Hollande said.
"We can make two conclusions after today’s meeting. First, the Normandy Format is the right decision… Thanks to this format we’ve been able to move forward," Hollande said. "Second, the Minsk [peace deal] works. We are working within the framework of these agreements, and all participants want them to be implemented."
"The fact that Vladimir Putin, Russia is taking a more active part in the Syrian situation does not mean that we have to somehow change our approach to the issue of Ukraine," Hollande added.
This round of Normandy Format talks in Paris lasted for about five hours. A previous meeting of the Normandy Quartet leaders took place in Minsk on February 11-12 and resulted in a batch of peace accords that laid out steps for ending the war in eastern Ukraine.