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  • The four leader are renewing efforts to end a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people. 

    The four leader are renewing efforts to end a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people.  | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 December 2019
Opinion

At a joint press conference in Paris, the four leaders released a communiqué in which they agreed to implement "immediate measures to stabilize the situation."

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany have agreed Monday to implement "ceasefire support measures" for eastern Ukraine and to "stabilize" the region by the end of the year.

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At a joint press conference in Paris, the four leaders released a communiqué in which they agreed to implement "immediate measures to stabilize the situation in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine." 

These new additions include the release of prisoners from each side by the end of the year, the creation of three new buffer zones and the creation of new crossing points, allowing civilians to cross the line of control that separates ​​​​​​​the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk from the rest of Ukraine.

"We have to make sure that there are no more one-hour lines so that the thousands of ordinary people living in this area can pass easily," Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters, adding that ​​​​​​​"all of our arrangements need to improve their lives, and not sometime in the future, but now."

The group also agreed to implement the "Steinmeier Formula" in Ukrainian legislation. Named after Germany's former foreign minister, the formula provides for elections to be held in Donetsk and Lugansk, with a view of granting autonomous status to these regions.  

Entering the talks, Ukrainian Presiden Volodymyr Zelensky argued that such elections would only be possible under Ukrainian law, and once foreign military forces withdraw from the two areas. The leaders' statement didn't cover Zelensky's conditions, but the Ukrainian leader said he is "confident" that the issues can be resolved in future meetings.

Monday's meeting was the first face-to-face meeting between Putin and Zelensky, and the first major test of the newly elected Ukrainian head of state on the world stage. 

In a brief comment to journalists before sitting down to dinner with the three participants, Putin said he was "pleased" with the development of the talks. Joining the Paris Summit was German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, the group has been dubbed the Normandy Four, taking their name from the date and place of its creation June 6, 2014, when its members met on the margins of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.

The four countries, with Ukraine and France under different leadership, met for the last time in 2016, to implement the previously agreed Minsk Protocols to end the conflict. ​​​​​​​Since then, little progress has been made, however, unlike his predecessor, the fiercely anti-Russian Petro Poroshenko, Zelensky has pushed for reconciliation.

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On Monday, the leaders agreed to meet again within four months, which is a dramatically shorter interruption of negotiations than the three years since the last gathering. This summit follows a series of confidence-building measures by Kiev and Moscow, including a prisoner swap and phased troop withdrawals.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine soured after the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum on March 16, 2014, to consult its population about the entry of its territory into the Russian Federation. 

This popular consultation, which the Crimean Parliament approved on Feb. 27, authorized the members of the Supreme Council of Crimea to separate Crimea from Ukraine. Sevastopol, which had a different political status, also held its referendum and decided to join Russia.

Later, both Crimea and Sevastopol declared their independence on March 11 and formed the Republic of Crimea, a decision which the Crimean Parliament took by majority too. Soon after the separatist eastern governments of Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence as well, initiating a five-year-old conflict with Kiev. 

Nevertheless, the U.S. and other Western countries ignored the Crimean people’s will, arguing that the referendum results were illegal according to the 1998 Ukrainian Constitution, which allowed the Ukrainian parliament to veto any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament.

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