Merkel Believes Russia Must Acknowledge Responsibility
The Ukraine conflict and the situation in Syria were subjects of consultations lasting over several hours Wednesday evening in the German Federal Chancellery. Chancellor Merkel spoke first with French President Hollande, Ukrainian President Poroshenko and Russian President Putin in the so-called “Normandy format” on the status of implementation of the Minsk agreements in contested eastern Ukraine.
"No wonders were achieved today", said Merkel after talks early Thursday morning. However, she said progress was made in reaching a consensus on a road map for a peaceful solution to expedite the Minsk agreements. In addition, she said participants discussed ways to continue to work on the subjects of security and political implementation of the Minsk agreements.
On June 6, 2014, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko und François Hollande on the side lines of the World War II commemoration in Normandy. It was the first time the Russian and Ukrainian heads of state came together since the crisis began. Since then, meetings and talks on the Ukraine conflict in which the four countries participate have been called the "Normandy format".
Securing a Sustained Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid
According to Merkel, the four foreign ministers of the Normandy format and their political advisors will step up their efforts in coming weeks. The initial focus will be on expanding the three troop disengagement zones. In addition to existing hotspots, four more of these zones are to be created.
Merkel said that measures should be taken to ensure that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) keeps these under observation day and night. She added that the guaranteed freedom of movement of observers must actually be possible “right up to the border”. She emphasised, however, that their arming was "not absolutely urgent at present".
According to Merkel, important political issues of detail are also at stake, such as laws on elections and special status for eastern Ukraine and their implementation. She said that outstanding issues would likewise be resolved in consultations on a road map. In addition, humanitarian measures, such as release of detained persons or restoration of water supply in areas around Lugansk that are occupied by separatists, were "very important".
Continuing to monitor the Minsk process
In the joint press conference with the French President, Merkel made clear that Germany and France remain prepared to monitor the Minsk process so that eastern Ukraine could finally be made more stable. In this connection, Hollande added that at the forthcoming European Council prolongation of sanctions against Russia would also have to be discussed. Chancellor Merkel agreed that this was an indispensable option.
Merkel said that "many disagreements still" existed on the road map. Nevertheless, it was "good news" that there was now an initial document on the basis of which timing of each implementation step could be agreed. She called this process laborious and a hard bit of work. "We have a challenging task ahead,” she summed up, but it would still be well worth every effort.
The Minsk accord: EU partners—above all, France—and the U.S. support Chancellor Merkel and the Foreign Minister in their efforts to bring about peace. Negotiations in what is known as the "Normandy format" with the Chancellor and Presidents Hollande, Putin and Poroshenko on February 11-12, 2015, led to reinforcement of the Minsk Protocol agreed on in September of the previous year. The most important part of the agreed "13-point package of measures" for civilians: a ceasefire in effect since February 15, 2015. After the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve was seized in violation of rules, the ceasefire has since been observed for the most part. Further escalation of armed hostilities was able to be avoided, the first detained persons were exchanged and heavy weapons withdrawn from both sides of the front line. Nevertheless, in the meantime skirmishes, also including heavy weapons, have been fought more and more frequently.
Bombardments in Aleppo are a "horrific experience"
After consultations in the so-called "Normandy format", the Chancellor and the French President talked with Russian President Putin about the situation in Syria. According to Merkel, there was a "very open and difficult debate". Bombardments in Aleppo, she said, were inhumane and a "horrific experience" for the population. "I also personally don’t believe that it’s possible to distinguish terrorists from peaceful persons if such attacks are made continually with the result that a political process cannot be created", emphasised Merkel. The present ceasefire, she said, should be a starting point for enabling delivery of humanitarian supplies to the Aleppo region.
The Chancellor said the Russians had a clear responsibility to exert influence on Syrian President Assad. The lives of the local population, even the future of a political process, must be borne in mind. She said that she and President Hollande had pointed this out "in no uncertain terms" in talks with President Putin.