Kazakhstan has responded to Belarusian criticism of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's offer to move the venue of peace talks on Ukraine from Minsk to Astana.
Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Erzhan Ashyqbaev told reporters in Astana on January 22 that his country does not doubt the importance of the Minsk negotiating platform, and "respects” the peace accords inked in the Belarusian capital.
Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed by fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists who control parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict -- have failed to hold.
"We are not interfering in this [Minsk] process,” Ashyqbaev said. “However, Kazakhstan is always ready to give full support to find solutions."
The Kazakh minister added that Astana would do its best to offer a new platform for the talks if such a request comes from the warring sides.
On January 19, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey said that moving the Minsk talks to a new venue wouldn't change anything.
"The negotiations' venue is hardly relevant," Makey said. "The negotiations on Ukraine could even be moved to Antarctica if there is a certainty about their success."
He added that Belarus was not "seeking peacemaker's laurels unlike some others."
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that commitment to the Minsk accords is "more important than the venue for negotiations" on resolving Ukraine's conflict.
The statements from Minsk and Moscow came a day after Nazarbaev said peace talks on Ukraine are deadlocked and suggested his country could serve as a new venue for negotiations.
Nazarbaev said while on a visit to the United States that he discussed the conflict during a meeting with Donald Trump, and that the U.S. president suggested moving the talks to another location.
With reporting by vlast.kz, RIA, and Interfax