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Germany Says Ukraine Talks To Be Held Next Week

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the so-called Normandy format talks will be held to give "new impetus" to Ukraine peace talks.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said April 22 he would hold talks next week with his Russian, Ukrainian, and French counterparts to revive efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The leaders of the four countries met at a summit in Paris in December 2019 to revive a peace process and for Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country to exchange prisoners. But lingering issues over a timeline for local elections and control over borders in the separatist-controlled regions remain.

Maas said he had held talks with his counterparts in recent days.

"We have come to the conclusion, and no one has disputed this, that key parts of the agreements from the summit in Paris have not yet been implemented," Maas said.

“That’s why it is important to give a new impetus to the decisions and the implementation of the decisions,” he said.

The so-called Normandy format meeting will be held via video link.

The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists have conducted two prisoner exchanges since the Paris summit. Last week the two sides exchanged 34 prisoners ahead of Orthodox Easter celebrations on April 19.

Separately on April 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone about the conflict in Ukraine and welcomed the latest prisoner exchange, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Germany and France have mediated between Ukraine and Russia since a peace agreement was signed in Minsk in 2015, but efforts at implementation have faltered.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was elected last year on promises to end the conflict in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine's relationship with Russia has been tense ever since protests in Kyiv led to the overthrow of pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula shortly thereafter and backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, sparking a war in the region known as the Donbas that has resulted in some 13,200 deaths.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, and TASS

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