Merkel: Possible meeting on Ukraine in Kazakhstan
The German chancellor made clear that the entire Minsk agreement needs to be fulfilled before European Union sanctions against Russia can be lifted.
Berlin — Major powers trying to resolve the conflict in Ukraine are working to set up a possible meeting in Kazakhstan, but it remains unclear whether it will happen and it won't resolve the crisis overnight if it does, Germany's leader said Thursday.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in late December that he planned to meet Jan. 15 in Astana, the Kazakh capital, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Russian and French presidents. However, German and other officials haven't confirmed the plan.
The four countries' foreign ministers are working on a "possible meeting in Astana" but more talks are needed over the coming days before it is clear whether it can go ahead, Merkel said after meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Merkel, who will receive Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday, didn't specify a date for the meeting. Diplomatic efforts focus on trying to implement in full a much-violated peace deal that was drawn up in Minsk in September — and Merkel insisted that every point of that agreement must be fulfilled.
"A meeting in Astana won't lead to all points being fulfilled the next day," she said. "What we can do is try to make visible progress and at the same time have a reliable road map for other points. What is difficult is that we already often had road maps that weren't kept to."
Yatsenyuk said the Minsk deal is still viable and the most urgent priority is to seal the Russia-Ukraine border. He called for continued Western unity in pressing Russia on the deal, saying that Moscow is "desperately trying" to split EU countries, "but they're going to fail."
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Thursday that there are "some limited positive signs on the Russian side" and that there also now appears to be a constructive and "different Russian attitude" on diplomatic issues other than Ukraine.