Baku, February 25 AZERTAC
The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany agreed on Tuesday (24 February) to seek a reinforcement of the international monitoring mission in Ukraine and renewed their calls for an oft-breached ceasefire agreement to be respected. Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany have repeatedly met over the Ukraine crisis in the so-called "Normandy format", some of the most crucial talks having been held in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The three hour meeting in Paris was called in a bid to rescue an agreement the four powers brokered this month in Minsk, setting out terms for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of arms in the conflict in east Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. "Against this backdrop we must be more ambitious in how we implement individual steps of the Minsk Agreement," Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters after the meeting, calling the lack of confidence between the two sides "total". French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the four had agreed to call for a one-year extension to the mandate of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ceasefire monitors in Ukraine and reinforce their personnel, equipment and funding.
Steinmeier noted there had been some signs of progress regarding agreements to withdraw heavy weaponry from conflict zones but said that should now physically take place "within the coming days". The French source said the withdrawal plan proposed by both Ukrainian and separatist military chiefs was deemed credible by French and German military experts. Leaving the talks first, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described them as "very useful."