Top diplomats to meet Friday on Ukraine crisis

4th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will meet Friday in Berlin for fresh talks on the conflict plaguing eastern Ukraine, a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"I can confirm that the so-called Normandy format meeting will be held on Friday afternoon," said Sawsan Chebli, using the term for a diplomatic grouping which brings together the four countries.

"In the last few weeks, we have made quite a lot of progress, the ceasefire has held for almost or even more than two months," she said, adding that there had also been steps taken towards the withdrawal of light arms.

"But the ceasefire can only be sustainable if we make progress towards a political solution for the conflict. That's why the Normandy meeting on Friday is so important," she said.

The latest ceasefire between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has been in place since September 1, but it remains fragile in a conflict which has claimed more than 8,000 lives over the past 18 months.

This was confirmed late Tuesday by the chief monitor for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) who said the ceasefire was "largely holding" but that the situation remains "volatile".

"Of course (fighting) has not fully stopped. There have been some recent incidents yesterday and two days ago... but the main trend is that the ceasefire is largely holding," Ertugrul Apakan told reporters after briefing OSCE member states in Vienna.

He said that the withdrawal of heavy weapons, including tanks, artillery and mortars, "has started", although "weapons of all calibres are still being used, and the situation remains volatile."

He also said in his report to OSCE members that the 600-strong observer mission "continued to encounter serious security risks and issues, including death threats and restrictions on the freedom of movement."

© 2015 AFP

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