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France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine summit planned for Wednesday

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L-R) at the 51st Munich Security Conference on Saturday
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L-R) at the 51st Munich Security Conference on Saturday ReutersMichaela Rehle

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine plan to meet to discuss the latest Ukraine peace deal on Wednesday in the Belarus capital, Minsk, a statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office announced Sunday.

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Merkel, French President François Hollande, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko talked by telephone on Sunday to discuss the next moves in the Ukraine crisis following Friday’s shuttle diplomacy by the French and German leaders that took them to Kiev and Moscow.

The four “continued to work on a package of measures to achieve a comprehensive
settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine", the German statement said.

It added that the signatories of a September’s failed Minsk agreement - representatives of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia and Ukraine as well the separatists - "will also get together by Wednesday in Minsk".

Hollande on Saturday warned that the latest peace efforts are “one of the last chances” to avoid all-out war.

The conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine has cost more than 5,500 lives in 10 months.

“What France and Germany are seeking at the moment in Ukraine is not a paper peace but peace on the ground,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at the international security conference in Munich on Sunday.

The plan proposes greater autonomy for the regions now in separatist hands, according to a US State Department official, cited by the AFP news agency.

It proposes a 50-70km demilitarised zone along the current frontline, Hollande has said.

But there were several questions that had yet to be settled on Sunday:

  • Poroshenko on Saturday insisted that the frontline should be the one recognised in the previous Minsk agreement;
  • The exact status proposed for the provinces was unclear;
  • The question of controlling the borders by which Russia is alleged to send arms and men to the rebels is unresolved;
  • The withdrawal of heavy weapons has yet to be agreed.

The Ukrainian army announced on Sunday that 12 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the preceding 24 hours and sustained artillery fire was reported on Saturday night and Sunday morning in the eastern city of Donetsk.
 

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