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Summit On Ukraine Conflict Held In Berlin


German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin to Berlin on October 19.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin to Berlin on October 19.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hosting late-night talks behind closed doors in Berlin with the presidents of Russia, France, and Ukraine in an attempt to resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The talks at Merkel's office on October 19 were under the so-called "Normandy" format, which brings together the leaders of the four countries.

Before the meeting involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began, there was a separate trilateral meeting between the leaders of Germany, France, and Ukraine about a possible settlement to the conflict between the Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said hours before the four-country summit that Moscow did not expect any breakthrough on resolving the conflict that has killed more than 9,600 people since April 2014.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also said he did not have "very high expectations."

But Peskov said Putin and Lavrov were attending with the aim of identifying obstacles to implementing the Minsk peace agreement.

The February 2015 accord, brokered in Minsk by France and Germany in talks with Russia and Ukraine that lasted 17 hours, has helped end large-scale fighting in eastern Ukraine.

But clashes have continued within increased frequency in recent months and efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled.

The last time the four leaders met together under the Normandy format was in Paris in October 2015. That meeting lasted more than five hours.

German media reported that Merkel and French President Francois Hollande also were pressuring Putin on October 19 to ease the suffering of Syrian civilians in rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo that have been targeted by intensive Russian and Syrian government air strikes since a fragile truce deal collapsed on September 19.

Hollande told reporters after the trilateral talks in Berlin that although the Berlin summit was focusing on Ukraine, "the end of the evening will also be dedicated to Syria."

Hollande also vowed to "do everything" he could to extend a temporary truce in Aleppo, Syria.

Moscow announced a halt to air strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods of the city on October 18 that appeared to be continuing on October 19.

It also said that it would extend an eight-hour truce that it has called for October 20 by another three hours, giving aid workers a total of 11 hours on October 20 to try to deliver humanitarian supplies to more than 250,000 civilians who are trapped in Aleppo's besieged rebel-held neighborhoods.

Both Germany and France have called for Russia and Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad's regime to implement a more sustained cease-fire in Syria in order to work toward a diplomatic solution to the 5 1/2-year-old war.

As Putin and Lavrov arrived at Merkel's office for the talk on October 19, hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the building to protest Russia's human rights record and its continued bombardment of Aleppo.

The noisy group of protesters lined up dozens of teddy bears outside the Chancellery to call attention to the deaths of more than 140 children as a result of the Russian and Syrian government air strikes on Aleppo.

The latest round of talks between Russia, the United States, and regional powers in the Middle East ended on October 15 without achieving any concrete results.

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