Normandy Four meeting ends with tentative agreement on follow-up talks in Berlin
At least they’re still talking.
That was the only takeaway from a low-level meeting of advisors to the leaders of the Normandy Four group of countries – Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany – who met in Paris, France on Jan. 26 to try to kick-start stalled Ukraine-Russia peace negotiations.
The parties to the talks agreed that a declared ceasefire in the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region should continue, Ukrainian Presidential Chief-of-Staff Andriy Yermak said at a press briefing following the meeting.
And a possible follow-up Normandy Four meeting has been provisionally agreed to take place in two weeks in Berlin, Germany, Yermak said.
A “full and comprehensive” ceasefire was last announced in the Donbas conflict in July 2020, but as in previous cease-fire declarations, it has never been observed.
In Paris, Ukraine’s Yermak met with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak, French presidential advisor Emmanuel Bonne, and German diplomat Jens Ploetner.
Following the meeting, Yermak announced that the sides had agreed on the wording of a communiqué – the first such document since December 2019 – and stressed that despite the many disagreements between Russia and Ukraine, there was a mutual “…desire to work on them.”
The agenda also included a discussion of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements – a previous peace initiative that has also frequently stalled.
According to Yermak, the sides conducted “an audit of all agreements, their status, and came to their own conclusions.”
The Normandy Four format was created as a way to negotiate an end to the eight-year conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas territory.
On Dec. 15, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and his French and German counterparts Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, met in Brussels to discuss the war in the Donbas and progress in the Normandy Four format of peace talks.
Macron and Scholz have said they want to revive the talks, though Russia has been hesitant to engage.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has accused Russia of coming up with unrealistic demands for Germany, France and Ukraine, in order to disrupt the Normandy format diplomatic track, noting that Russia has continued to stall a new round of talks by various means – including by blaming Ukraine for the delay and alleging that Ukraine is violating the Minsk Agreements, a peace plan signed by both Russia and Ukraine.
President Zelensky on Jan. 25 said Ukraine was working to organize Normandy format leader-level talks as soon as possible.
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