Powers push for ceasefire, weapons withdrawal in E. Ukraine from Monday | Reuters

By John Irish and Andrea Shalal | MUNICH MUNICH Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on Saturday to use their influence to implement a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Monday in eastern Ukraine. Fighting has recently escalated between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the region, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.'On Feb

Reuters February 18, 2017 23:45:06 IST
Powers push for ceasefire, weapons withdrawal in E. Ukraine from Monday
| Reuters

Powers push for ceasefire weapons withdrawal in E Ukraine from Monday
 Reuters

By John Irish and Andrea Shalal
| MUNICH

MUNICH Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on Saturday to use their influence to implement a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Monday in eastern Ukraine. Fighting has recently escalated between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the region, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West."On Feb. 20 the ceasefire regime will start and withdrawal of heavy military hardware will also start ... We have actively supported this decision and obviously expressed a conviction that this time, failure should not be allowed to take place," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Ukrainian, German and French counterparts in Munich.The Minsk peace agreement, brokered by France and Germany and signed by Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, calls for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.But since the deal the sides appear stuck in a stalemate broken periodically by sharp resurgences of fighting that Kiev and the Kremlin accuse each other of instigating.

Since the end of January, shelling on both sides of the front line near the government-held town of Avdiyivka has been heavier than at any time since last summer. "All parties will use their influence to implement the agreement of the trilateral contact group from Feb 15," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters, referring to a body comprising Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)."The aim is to have a ceasefire starting from Feb. 20 and to do what has long been agreed but never implemented: To withdraw the heavy weapons from the region, to secure them and enable the OSCE monitors to control where they are kept."

U.S. President Donald Trump's new administration has said that any sanctions imposed on Moscow following its annexation of Crimea and events in eastern Ukraine would not be lifted until there was progress on implementing the accords.Speaking to Reuters after the meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said he was "not at all" happy and lamented a lack of "powerful results."

Echoing those comments, Lavrov said there had been a lack of results, but that he believed Ukraine and rebels would abide by the Feb. 20 date. Despite their differences, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said neither Moscow nor Kiev had offered any alternatives to the Minsk process. "The meeting showed that Russians and Ukrainians had no other option, but to respect Minsk. They have no alternatives. We agree to meet quickly, perhaps in three weeks, to see if we can advance on the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and exchange of prisoners. We need a lot of patience, because we can see a lack of will on either side." (Reporting by John Irish, Andrea Shalal and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Adrian Croft)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.