Germany eyes truce extension in Ukraine talks
Germany's foreign minister said he hoped the warring sides in Ukraine's conflict could agree to extend a shaky truce, ahead of peace talks in Berlin later Wednesday.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he also wanted negotiators to move forward on organising local elections in eastern Ukraine, warning that each round of fruitless talks risks undermining a fragile peace agreement.
"We have achieved a certain calm (on the ground) but there is constantly escalation and re-escalation," said Steinmeier ahead of the talks with his Russian, Ukrainian and French counterparts.
"It cannot go on like that as each meeting that fails to yield results hurts the credibility of the Minsk agreement," he said.
Russia, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine agreed on a peace deal in the Belarussian capital in February 2015.
But the truce has suffered frequent violations and there has also been deadlock on organising local elections in the rebel-held Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
On April 29, Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels agreed on a new truce in honour of Orthodox Easter, but barely hours after it took effect fresh fighting erupted.
"I am going on the principle that the parties in the conflict have an interest for the dialogue to be both substantial and successful," said Steinmeier. "I hope that we can get things moving here today."
Steinmeier on Tuesday expressed exasperation at the pace of the talks, complaining that "in terms of seeking a political solution, things have been moving along at snail's pace".
"It cannot go on like that," he said.
Germany and France are spearheading efforts to end the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland.
The West accuses Russia of supporting the revolt -- which has now killed more than 9,300 people -- a charge Moscow vehemently denies.
Along with Russia's annexation of Ukraine's strategic peninsula of Crimea, the pro-Moscow rebellion in the east has plunged Russia's relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.
© 2016 AFP