Peace talks in Paris on Thursday (3 March) saw France give Ukraine a deadline on holding warzone-elections in the run-up to an EU decision on Russia sanctions in July.
In a separate event, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Ukraine won’t join the EU for at least 20 years.
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told press after meeting his German, Russian, and Ukrainian counterparts in Paris that Kiev must deliver on a promise to hold local elections in anti-Kiev-regime regions in east Ukraine.
“We underlined the importance of adopting an electoral law to hold local elections by the end of the first half of 2016,” he said, according to French media.
He said the ministers also agreed on “the release and exchange of all prisoners and people held in illegal detention between now and April 30.”
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Ayrault.
He told Russian media that Kiev must implement the so-called Minsk ceasefire deal by devolving power to regions, passing a law on local elections in the conflict zone, and granting legal amnesty to the authorities of two self-proclaimed republics in east Ukraine.
He said there’s “no progress” on Minsk implementation due to Kiev’s “unwillingness” to move.
Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin denied Ayrault’s report of a deal on local elections, however.
Asked if there was a breakthrough at the Paris event, he said: “No, I don’t have that impression.” He added that security conditions in east Ukraine are not adequate to hold a credible vote.
Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticised both Russia and Ukraine.
“I am not satisfied with the way Kiev and Moscow are operating the negotiations here,” he said after the Paris meeting. He warned that the conflict “can escalate again at any time.”
Speaking at separate event in The Hague also on Thursday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the EU in the next 20 to 25 years, and not of Nato either.”
He said the EU in the past moved too quickly on enlargement. “We will not make that mistake again,” he said at Thursday’s lecture, which was hosted by opposition centre-right CDA political party.
His remarks were designed to reassure eurosceptic voters ahead of a Dutch referendum on 6 April on the EU-Ukraine free trade treaty.
The citizen-enforced referendum is non-binding. But a big No vote could cause a “crisis” in EU foreign policy, Juncker said earlier.