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Leaders Agree On More Ukraine Peace Talks In Minsk

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, at a news conference in Kyiv on December 22.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, at a news conference in Kyiv on December 22.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany have agreed to call another round of Ukraine peace talks this week.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said on December 22 that the negotiations will be held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on December 24 and 26.

The announcement was made after Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in a telephone conference call.

The talks will involve Ukraine, Russia, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Ukraine has been fighting the rebels in a conflict that has killed more than 4,700 people in eastern Ukraine since April.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the rebels have seized control of parts of two provinces with what Kyiv and NATO say is direct military support from Moscow.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine despite a September 5 deal on a cease-fire and steps toward peace, but fighting has abated this month and efforts have been made to hold new peace talks.

The Kremlin said Putin, Poroshenko, Hollande, and Merkel "noted with satisfaction that the warring parties have generally enforced the cease-fire in past days."

Both the Kremlin and Poroshenko's office said the leaders agreed on the need to respect the cease-fire, draw a separation line between the warring sides, pull out troops and heavy weapons, and quickly release war prisoners.

The Kremlin also stressed the importance of providing assistance to the population of the east and take steps to normalize the economic situation there.

Moscow has repeatedly urged Poroshenko to revise his decision to suspend social services to the population of the rebel-held parts of Ukraine.

The German government said the four leaders discussed "concrete proposals for solutions," in particular regarding the exchange of prisoners.

The Elysee Palace said the leaders called for urgent and "concrete progress" in the peace efforts and for the cease-fire to be "fully respected."

The Interfax news agency quoted Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, as saying, "It's important to find compromises at the negotiating table and not through weapons."

Nazarbaev Urges Compromise

Earlier on December 22, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, during a visit to Kyiv, called on Russia and Ukraine to seek compromise in order to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and preserve its territorial integrity.

Nazarbaev's visit also produced agreements on deliveries of coal to Ukraine and the revival of a bilateral trade-talks mechanism, as well as talk of defense industry cooperation -- pointed messages to Moscow that Kazakhstan is unhappy with the conflict at the heart of the former Soviet Union.

"I am appealing to Russia and Ukraine to think about finding a compromise in order to get out of this conflict and preserve Ukraine's territorial integrity, because this situation is nonsense and should not be taking place," Nazarbaev said after talks with Poroshenko.

Nazarbaev's remark suggested he is concerned about the effects of the Ukraine crisis on Kazakhstan, which is a partner of Moscow in trade and security groupings cultivated by Russian President Vladimir Putin but is also pursuing close ties with the West.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and Interfax
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