Talks in Minsk on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine have ended with the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany all saying no new breakthroughs were made.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the November 29 meeting in the Belarusian capital concluded with negotiators far from reaching a political agreement that includes local elections -- one of the key points of the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.
But Steinmeier said he still hopes for progress on implementing the Minsk accords in order to bring an end to fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Steinmeier also held out the prospect that full implementation of the measures agreed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015 could lead to the lifting of international sanctions imposed against Russia over its role in Ukraine's conflict.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin blamed Russia for the standstill at the November 29 meeting, saying Moscow would not agree to any of the key priorities set out in the talks.
Klimkin also said Kyiv and Moscow have a fundamental difference of opinion on how a path to peace would look.
Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying 5,000 to 7,500 regular army units in eastern Ukraine and gathering a force of 55,000 troops near Russia's borders with Ukraine.
Russia denies it has any troops in eastern Ukraine.
'Unacceptable' Status Quo
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was not possible to agree to further steps at the November 29 meeting. But he said "work will continue."
Lavrov also rejected the idea of setting up a militarized monitoring mission in southeastern Ukraine under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The Russian foreign minister said: "There will be no militarized missions either of the OSCE or any other organization, contrary to what Kyiv has been saying from time to time."
France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said "all the elements of the Minsk accords must be put in place" and that there is still "an enormous amount of work to be done."
Ayrault described the November 29 talks as "difficult," but said the dialogue has not broken down altogether.
However, he said that the status quo in eastern Ukraine is unacceptable and likely will lead to more violence.
At the completion of the meeting of the four foreign ministers in Minsk, Lavrov and Steinmeier went into a separate bilateral meeting in the Belarusian capital on November 29.
Steinmeier had said before arriving in Minsk that he planned to speak to Lavrov about Russia’s military role in Syria's war.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, Interfax, and TASS