‘Need more time’: Intense Minsk talks enter 17th hour

 Foreground, from left: Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at Independence Palace in Minsk during the peace talks on Ukraine, February 11, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Nikolay Lazarenko)
The leaders of the 'Normandy Four' – Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine – are continuing their roller coaster talks at the Minsk Palace of Independence. Their attempt to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis has been dragging on for over 16 hours.

LIVE UPDATES: 'Normandy 4' Ukraine peace talks in Minsk

During the first hours of deliberations, the talks took place in a wider format, before the leaders retreated to strike a compromise in a closed door session. All of the leaders reportedly took short breaks throughout the negotiations.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Minsk peace negotiations became one of the longest in his political career, TASS reports. The importance of the talks was so great that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier decided to delay his departure to Brazil.

“The talks in Minsk are not easy and are continuing,” he said.

READ MORE: Will ‘last chance’ talks in Minsk bring peace to Ukraine?

After almost 14 hours, the marathon talks appeared to have finished, with the leaders walking out of the conference hall. But minutes later it became apparent that it was just a short break in the tough negotiations.

The diplomatic marathon also messed up with scheduled of the participants, who may now be forced to change their plans for Thursday. Hollande and Merkel were supposed to go to Brussels to take part in an EU summit. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has canceled a meeting with his British counterpart in London.

“More time is needed” became the slogan used by participants of talks, as journalists waited outside. “There is progress, but it is not a simple conversation. More time is needed,” one source told Sputnik.

After the wider format talks involving full delegations concluded, Russia's foreign minister left the deliberation room and said the talks were moving along “actively, better than super.” Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin’s senior foreign policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, described the talks as

Before Merkel, Poroshenko, Hollande, and Putin continued the negations in a narrow format, it was reported that a document on settling the crisis was being drafted, and would then be handed over to the Normandy Four leaders for approval.

“Right now the contact group is finalizing and handing over [the] signed and agreed document and then [leaders of the Normandy Four] will either approve it or not. Right now, the 'Normandy summit' is discussing possible variants of the document,” Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said some four hours into the talks.

The exact disengagement line is reportedly the main obstacle preventing the parties from reaching a consensus. According to Reuters, the Ukrainian rebels want to take control of the city of Debaltsevo, a Kiev stronghold currently encircled by their opponents. Such a concession would be perceived as a major defeat in Ukraine, which probably explains why President Poroshenko mentioned “unacceptable” terms proposed by Russia.

“Unfortunately there is no good news. No news at the moment. There is still hope,” the Poroshenko told AFP during a short break.