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Fresh peace talks fail for Ukrainian crisis

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-14 10:59

Political advisers to leaders of the "Normandy Four" countries held lengthy discussions in Berlin on Tuesday, but reached no agreement on issues concerning the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"Regrettably, there is not much to boast of," said Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the Russian president's administration who led the Russian delegation, after the talks.

He noted, however, the conversation was open and sides "exchanged views on all key matters" concerning implementation of the Minsk accords and the consensus reached at a group leaders' summit in Paris in December 2019.

The Normandy Four, or the Normandy Format, is a diplomatic group of leaders from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France set up to resolve the Ukrainian crisis in accordance with the Minsk deals.

The group, along with Belarus, reached the Minsk-2 accords in February 2015 for a cease-fire in Donbass. Ukrainian and Russian leaders at the 2019 Paris summit agreed on a full and comprehensive implementation of a truce in eastern Ukraine before the end of 2019.

"We failed to find final solutions," Kozak admitted, saying the advisers agreed to outline new general approaches to the roadmap on the comprehensive settlement of the conflict in the Trilateral Contact Group, a group of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for the situation in eastern Ukraine.

'Would be a suicide'

When asked by Russian state news agency Tass on whether Kiev could use force in Donbass, he said: "It would be a suicide to unleash combat operations. The cease-fire has been observed since summer one way or another. At least, no large-scale skirmishes have been reported. Resumption of hostilities would be a suicide."

Tuesday's talks lasted for about six hours. The group's last meeting was held on Sept 11, also in Berlin.

Tuesday's meeting had been scheduled back in early November but Moscow insisted it be held "not for the sake of just talking", but be organized after the agenda and principles were agreed.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for holding the meeting on time, and said in December he would speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin directly if the conference was delayed.

Zelensky said then that Ukraine would begin working on a plan to settle the crisis in Donbass "with all the dates" after the talks of those advisers.

"We are moving forward, albeit with difficulty. This is plan A," he said.

Advisers agreed to have another round of talks within the next two weeks to discuss issues on settling the conflict.

"We will meet within two weeks to discuss these matters," Kozak said, adding the pandemic was not an obstacle to organizing new meetings.

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