The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have made some “discernible progress” in their latest round of diplomatic efforts to cease hostilities in Ukraine, but there was no breakthrough in talks resolve the long-drawn conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin agreed at a meeting with German and France Foreign ministers here that the Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists should withdraw their heavy weapons from the front line as specified in a ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk on September.
“I’m not going to say we saw a breakthrough. The negotiations were very tough and they tested the limits of patience of all sides involved. But I hold the view that there was some discernible progress,” Steinmeier said at a news conference on Wednesday night at the conclusion of the meeting. He said the ministers agreed that heavy weapons should be withdrawn from the demarcation line in accordance with the Minsk agreement. The governments of Russia, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists agreed in Minsk on September 19 to withdraw heavy artillery 15 km away on both sides of the demarcation line and thereby create an artillery-free buffer zone. Steinmeier said further progress towards a negotiated settlement depended on whether what has been agreed here will not just remain on the paper and will indeed change the situation on the ground. Lavrov pledged to use Russia’s influence on the separatists to ensure that they will comply with the decisions taken in Berlin.