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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Normandy Four Talks: 'Meeting Was Useful'

© Sputnik / Maksim Blinov / Go to the mediabankRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - Sputnik International
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the meeting of the Normandy Format foreign ministers in Berlin that the meeting was useful, although the ministers failed to resolve all problems related to the Minsk Agreements.

The meeting of the Normandy Format foreign ministers devoted to the Ukrainian conflict has ended in Berlin, a Sputnik correspondent reported earlier.

The talks lasted for over 4.5 hours. After the official part of the meeting, the ministers discussed certain issues in the format of a working dinner.

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Lavrov said after the meeting that the foreign ministers discussed political reforms, economic issues as well as other problems related to the conflict in Ukraine. Russian top diplomat also said that the Normandy Four foreign ministers discussed specific issues of ensuring security in Donbass.

"Of course, we could not solve all the problems related to the implementation of the Minsk agreements on the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis, but I believe that this meeting was very useful… We have once again looked at the whole situation in the sphere of security and in the sphere of political reforms, in the sphere of economy, humanitarian problems, and our our German colleagues will announce their understanding of the situation," Lavrov said after the ministerial talks.

According to Lavrov, Moscow considers the Normandy Four format to be a useful platform for settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

"I believe that such meetings are useful, although we know that conversations about how to synchronize actions to implement Minsk agreements are running not only within the foreign ministries, but also through the foreign policy advisers of the three countries and the German chancellor. These contacts will continue, we have actively supported them," Lavrov added.

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Russian Foreign Minister also added that Normandy Four discussed on Monday the issue of prisoners in Ukraine. "We have confirmed that solving humanitarian issues and reaching arrangements on the conditions of prisoners' release have a priority meaning," Lavrov said.

According to Lavrov, Russian and Ukrainian commissioners will draft a roadmap to settle the issue of prisoners' exchange.

Lavrov added that the Normandy Four ministerial meeting also addressed the issue of possible UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass.

"The Russian position is very clear, we have a proposal that was submitted last September to the UN Security Council… We have explained that the US and Ukrainian ideas to turn this peacekeeping mission into a kind of a military and political commandant's office, which will control the entire territory of the self-proclaimed Dontesk and Luhansk people's republics and will decide on whom to elect and how to elect… that these proposals completely destroy the Minsk agreements," the Russian minister added.

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Lavrov also noted that Kiev has been hampering inclusion of "Steinmeier formula" on Donbass status to agreement, expressing hope that the Normandy Four meeting would help this in the future. The minister also said that the US proposals over peacekeeping mission in Donbass fully "destroy" Minsk Agreements and that Berlin and Paris understand this.

The so-called "Steinmeier formula" was proposed in October 2015 by then German Foreign Minister and incumbent President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The formula envisages a special status for Donbass region and its temporary introduction during the local elections under the oversight of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). This process would then allow a law on Donbass' special status to take full effect.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasized that the Normandy Four meeting in Berlin was very constructive."Tonight we held a very comprehensive, very open and constructive dialogue," Maas said after the meeting.

According to Maas, all participants of the meeting have confirmed their commitment to keep ceasefire regime in Donbass.

"We have reached full consent, all the sides once again spoke in favor of maintaining the ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the disengagement of military units and demining in the region," Maas added.

"Germany and France have offered additional funds and know-how for demining," the minister said.

Six Points Arrangements Reached

Heiko Maas said that all of the sides have political will to continue further prisoners' exchange in Donbass region. "The political will for the exchange of prisoners exists," Maas said.

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Commenting on the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass, Maas noted that the political directors of the Normandy Four foreign ministries have been instructed to work out the parameter of the mission.

"They will discuss this with each other in the coming weeks," the minister added.

In turn, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after the meeting that Normandy Four has reached on Monday arrangements over six key issues in Donbass settlement.

"The intensity and the quality of our discussion have allowed us to enter a positive dynamic in the direction, I hope, of finding a peaceful solution… We have reach arrangements over six key points… All the sides have pledged to uphold a sustainable truce, we also discussed the withdrawal of heavy weapons, disengagement of troops in three pilot zones and demining in the region. We also talked about the access without the intervention of OSCE observers," Le Drian said after the meeting in Berlin.

The minister added that "France and Germany offered their participation in demining." According to Le Drian, France is ready to work on the parameters of a possible UN mission in eastern Ukraine.

In turn, Russian Foreign Minister also emphasized that Normandy Four discussed particular steps to ensure security in Donbass.

"The second thing that we have discussed is the necessity to take specific steps to normalize the security situation in Donbas," Lavrov said after the meeting in Berlin.

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According to Lavrov, the Ukrainian government does not allow to legally consolidate the so-called "Steinmeier Formula," which was previously developed in the Normandy format with the aim to regulate the entry into force of the law on Donbas special status.

The conflict in Donbass sparked in 2014, when Ukrainian authorities launched a military operation against the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics that refused to recognize the new government in Kiev, which came to power after what they considered to be a coup. In February 2015, the warring parties signed the Minsk peace accords to end the fighting in the region. However, the situation has remained tense.

The Minsk agreements, in particular, provide for the separation of forces in the three pilot areas of Donbass. The armed forces have been disengaged in two areas so far, while the withdrawal of troops in Stanytsia Luhanska has been disrupted several times, with Kiev refusing to fulfill its obligations.

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