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Foreign Ministers Gather In Berlin For Ukraine Meeting

January 12, 2015

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France are meeting in Berlin on January 12 for talks on the conflict in Ukraine.

The meeting follows a flurry of diplomacy, including a brief weekend encounter in Paris between the German, French, and Ukrainian leaders.

Speaking in Moscow on January 12, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia expects the meeting in Berlin 'to help stimulate a full implementation of everything agreed upon in Minsk by all parties.'

Lavrov was referring to an often-violated deal on a cease-fire and steps toward peace agreed in Minsk on September 5.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 10 and met on January 9 with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the host of a possible four-way summit on Ukraine.

Merkel told Putin that she expects Moscow to use its influence on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to reach 'consensual solutions.'

She said a summit will not be held until progress has been made on the Minsk plan.

Russia denies playing any role in the conflict, despite evidence -- some provided by NATO -- that it has sent troops and weapons into Ukraine to support the separatists.

Speaking in Moscow on January 12, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia expects the meeting in Berlin 'to help stimulate a full implementation of everything agreed upon in Minsk by all parties.'

At a news conference with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, Lavrov said that 'the key point everyone agrees upon is that we ought to support the efforts to renew the territorial integrity of Ukraine.'

But Lavrov said that the main sticking point remains Ukraine's lack of progress in implementing constitutional reform.

Lavrov once again criticized international sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukrainian crisis, saying the sanctions are 'absolutely illegitimate, counterproductive, and restrictive measures.'

Rinkevics said 'serious disagreements' over the conflict in Ukraine mean it may take a long time to find a solution.

The cease-fire agreed in Minsk is violated almost daily, and more than 4,700 people have been killed in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since April.

On January 11, Merkel briefly met in Paris with French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Merkel and Poroshenko were among world leaders in the French capital to attend a rally to honor the victims of the recent terror attacks in Paris.

Hollande has said he would go to a Kazakhstan summit only on condition that there's a chance of making progress.

Russia also says the Kazakhstan summit might not take place.

On January 12, the daily Vedomosti quoted Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying that 'preparatory work continues... and our further actions depend on its outcomes.'

Meanwhile, on the ground in eastern Ukraine, heavy fighting was reported in the pro-Russian separatist stronghold of Donetsk.

On January 12, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that 'separatists' had attempted to storm Donetsk airport, which remains under the control of Ukrainian government forces.

Lysenko said the separatist assault was repelled.

The French AFP news agency reports that rocket and mortar fire echoed

Source: crisis-berlin-meeting-/26788249.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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