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Foreign Ministers Discuss Eastern Ukraine Conflict, Minsk Deal


MUNICH, Germany -- Senior diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France met in Munich on February 13 to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine and implementation of the Minsk II agreement on steps to end the conflict there.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany, and Russia took part, along with a senior French diplomat.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted some progress in negotiations, including on the thorny question of how to conduct elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

But he said that all sides were still "a long way off from resolving the conflict."

He also delivered a rebuke to Russia, saying that "the question of war and peace has returned to the European continent" following Moscow's seizure of Crimea and backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

He did not identify Russia by name. But he said that after the end of the Cold War and the violent 20th century "we had thought that peace had returned to Europe for good" and that "borders would not be put into question."

The "turbulence" on Europe's eastern edge is one of several major challenges the European Union is facing, Steinmeier said.

The war between Kyiv's forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014.

Fighting has diminished substantially since September 2015, but many aspects of the Minsk deal have not been implemented.

The deal calls for elections under Ukrainian law in separatist-held areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, withdrawal of foreign forces, and the return of Ukrainian control over the border with Russia, among other things.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said before the meeting that Russia is not adhering to its obligations. He said he hoped to focus on security, prisoner exchanges, and discussions of how to hold "free and fair elections."

Russia denies it has sent weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine despite what Kyiv and NATO say is overwhelming evidence.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said foreign ministers planned to come together again in early March in Paris for a full-fledged meeting.

With reporting by Unian and RIA
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