Leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine Gather to Talk PeaceUkraine | February 11, 2015, Wednesday // 20:04| views
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), French President Francois Hollande (C-L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C-R) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) attend their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, 11 February 2015. Photo EPA/BGNES
Leaders of the so-called Normandy group - France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine – gathered in Minsk on Wednesday to try to strike a peace deal for eastern Ukraine.
The very fact that the four leaders had converged in the capital of Belarus with the stated aim to bring peace to Ukraine highlights mounting concerns the standoff will not only continue to claim human lives but could destabilize the whole region.
The conflict, opposing the pro-Western Ukrainian government to pro-Russian separatists in the country’s eastern regions, has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people since it began in April last year.
French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin will have to agree on several key issues before they could reach a mutually acceptable solution.
The withdrawal of heavy weapons, the creation of a demilitarised zone and the future status of Ukraine’s Donbas area, which comprises the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic, are seen as key to achieving a lasting ceasefire.
The four-way talks are likely to continue late into the night as there is no indication whether some sort of preliminary consensus has been reached on sticking points such as who will control Ukraine's border with Russia in the disputed territory, disarmament of the separatists and what degree of political autonomy will be granted to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
According to Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, Moscow and Kiev had agreed on the outlines of a truce and demilitarisation agreement and on how the ceasefire would be monitored internationally.
Meanwhile, fighting in eastern Ukraine has intensified over the past two days with each side apparently trying to make territorial gains before the establishment of the proposed demilitarised zone.
At least two dozen people, including civilians, have been killed on either side since Monday.
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