Demilitarized zone, Kiev-Donetsk dialogue to be focus of Normandy 4 talks in Minsk - source
The creation of a demilitarized zone in southeast Ukraine and the start of a peace dialogue between Kiev and the rebels are to top the agenda of the ‘Normandy Four’ talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Wednesday, a source told RIA Novosti.
During the talks, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Germany and France are expected to insist on Russia taking responsibility for controlling the establishment of the demilitarized zone in southeast Ukraine, the source added.
Meanwhile, Russia believes that it’s the OSCE that should be responsible for the establishment of the demilitarized zone.
Those proposals were voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande during talks with Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday, the source said.
Russia’s permanent representative to the OSCE, Andrey Kelin, told RT that the idea of a demilitarized zone in southeast Ukraine “does exist.”
“But we need more specification: How large will it be? What kind of weapons may be kept inside this zone? I feel that one may come to a result that it should be totally weapon-free zone with only police or those who are having sidearms,” he said.
According to Kelin, control over such a zone “might be attributed to OSCE observers,” but the watchdog would have to determine “how it corresponds to the mandate of the current mission of OSCE, how many forces should be involved, lots and lots of questions.”
The OSCE was only supposed to observe the withdrawal of heavy weapons under the Minsk agreement of September 2014, the Russian OSCE representative said.
According to the RIA's source “permanent dialogue” would also require representatives of Kiev and the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to meet every two or three weeks.
Later in the day, as the contact group was paving the way to the Minsk meeting, TASS news agency sources said the conflicting sides, Russia, and the OSCE worked out a ceasefire plan for eastern Ukraine and ways to monitor it. A heavy weapons withdrawal scheme was also reportedly agreed upon.
The ‘Normandy Four’ leaders believe the outcome of the Minsk talks will determine the US decision on whether to supply arms to the Kiev authorities, the source said.
The rebel forces assured Moscow that they’re ready to implement a ceasefire as soon as Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko gives the same order to the Ukrainian military.
The Minsk talks on Wednesday are “another huge chance…to take a big first step towards de-escalation” in southeastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
"But nothing has been resolved yet. The taking place of the summit alone is no guarantee of its success. I urge and expect Moscow and Kiev...to really seize this chance," Steinmeier said, as quoted by Reuters.
Last week, the leaders of Germany and France performed surprise visits to Kiev and Moscow to discuss their new peace proposals with Putin and Poroshenko.
During those meetings, Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France agreed to hold joint talks, which will take place in Minsk on Wednesday.
The trips were announced while US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was in Kiev, speaking of possible American weapons supplies to Ukrainian government troops.
The EU objects plans to arm Kiev, with Merkel telling Obama on her US visit on Monday that there’s no military solution to the Ukrainian crisis.
Kiev and rebels previously signed a peace deal last September, but if failed to hold, being violated by both sides on a daily basis.
Large-scale warfare resumed in eastern Ukraine shortly after the New Year as Kiev launched a massive, yet fruitful assault on the militia’s positions, provoking their counter offensive.