Normandy Four foreign ministers' talks kick off in Minsk, although no one seems to be optimistic about success
The next round of Minsk talks on Donbas in the ‘Normandy format' on the level of Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia has started. It was announced by First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and President's Humanitarian Envoy at the Minsk peace talks Iryna Gerashchenko.
"The meeting of the foreign ministers in ‘Normandy format' has just started. The participants enter the meeting room," she wrote on Facebook and presented few photos from the scene.
Normandy Four talks with leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia in Minsk (by Iryna Gerashchenko).
Earlier Iryna Gerashchenko stated: "Before the beginning of the talks Pavlo Klimkin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has underlined that the Ukrainian delegation is going to raise the security and humanitarian issues as the key priority. The Ukrainian representation is deeply concerned with the fact that the checkpoint Zolote has been blocked since March 2016. The Minister has pointed out today that he is ready to invite his colleagues Steinmeier and Ayrault to the opening of the checkpoint. Maybe they will influence the Russians to put pressure on the representatives of the militants to stop torturing civilians and to open the checkpoint at last."
She also stressed, that Ukraine insists on liberating hostages as fast as possible. "We will raise the issue as the key priority. We demand immediate release of 57 hostages who are confirmed to be kept on the militant-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Ukrainian side will also raise the issue of the Ukrainian hostages held captives in the Russian Federation. According to the information of the Security Service of Ukraine 108 hostages are held by militants, but their representatives confirm only 57 Ukrainians in captivity. We also insist on providing the immediate access of the ICRC to the occupied territories to search for missing persons. 495 persons are at the lists of missing persons," Gerashchenko wrote.
Another important issue Ukraine is concerned with are the daily violations of ceasefire and the possibility of the ecological disaster in Donbas provoked by the Russian Federation. It includes "the issue of water supply (Toretsk has had no water supply for a week) and other issues that will be raised today by the Minister and the Ukrainian delegation".
As for the other sides, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ahead of international talks said there is little chance of major progress on ending fighting in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports. "I don't think it's a big secret that the expectations of Mr. Steinmeier for the meeting tomorrow are modest. Neither the intensive pre-negotiations and discussions of the last months nor the public statements made by the parties provide much hope for a sensational breakthrough," Ministry's speaker Martin Schaefer explained his boss' attitude.