On Wednesday, the members of the Contact Group, comprising envoys from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe prompted conflicting sides to agree on full cessation of hostilities starting at midnight on December 24 and to ensure peace during the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays.
“I welcome the unanimous recommitment to a full observance of the ceasefire reached at today’s meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk. Following the recent escalation of fighting in the area of Debaltseve and with the holiday period approaching, it is more than timely that all sides return to a comprehensive ceasefire along the entire line of contact,” Steinmeier, who is the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) said on Wednesday.
Steinmeier stressed that the withdrawal of heavy weapons must be urgently completed in Ukraine’s southeast (Donbas) and OSCE monitors should be granted access to all areas of Donbas.
“Moreover, I call on all sides to release a significant number of persons detained in relation with the conflict before the end of the year, starting with the most vulnerable,” the German foreign minister stressed.
The Contact Group holds regular meetings in Minsk, aimed at facilitating a diplomatic resolution of the armed conflict in Ukraine’s southeast. The previous Contact Group meeting took place on December 7.
Kiev launched a special military operation in Ukraine’s southeast in April 2014, after local residents refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities, which came to power as a result of a coup. In February 2015, the two sides reached a ceasefire deal after talks brokered by the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine — the so-called Normandy Format — in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Kiev has been reluctant to implement a number of Minsk deal provisions.
The “Steinmeier formula,” a mechanism proposed by the German foreign minister, is aimed at ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine through the passing of legislation on self-rule in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics (DPR and LPR) and the eventual determination by the OSCE that free and fair elections have been held there.