"No alternative" to Minsk agreements, says Minister
Ukraine – Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, during his joint press conference with his German and Ukrainian counterparts
Kiev, 14 September 2016
THE MINISTER – This is actually the second visit Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I have paid here since the beginning of the year. It’s an important moment, especially as Ukraine celebrates the 25th anniversary of its independence. It’s a meaningful moment, it brings hope and it also provides the opportunity to pay tribute to the Ukrainian people’s bravery and determination.
It’s also an opportunity to recall our commitment to and support for Ukraine, which is engaged in a vast programme of reforms which we’d like to go on supporting, particularly on the bilateral front, as Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: Germany and Ukraine; France and Ukraine too. On 28 October [N.B. the Minister announced the date as 28 September, but the forum will take place on 28 October] a meeting will take place in Paris on investment in Ukraine, with the support of the EU and the IMF as well, to enable these reforms to succeed. So it’s an important stage for us, also to take stock – and we’ll be seeing the Prime Minister later on – of the implementation of these programmes since the new government’s inauguration.
I was also keen to repeat to President Poroshenko our support for Ukraine, as regards respect for its territorial integrity, and our utter disapproval of the elections organized in Crimea for the Russian Duma, and so I reiterated our solidarity with independent Ukraine.
Together we recalled our commitment to the Minsk agreements. There’s no alternative, no Plan B. The Minsk agreements must be implemented. And there’s a method, a way of proceeding, the Normandy format, to which we’re committed and which we want to keep going. This is why, after a few months’ stagnation, we thought it necessary to take the initiative to get things running again, and that means preparing the conditions for a summit at heads of state and government level, in the framework of the Normandy format with President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, President Poroshenko and President Putin. I think this stage today creates the conditions for that summit.
To be successful, several conditions need to be met. The first concerns security and the observation of the ceasefire. There’s been the ceasefire which began at the start of the school term: that’s positive, but it must actually be consolidated. Frank-Walter Steinmeier referred to messages from Moscow, which are a step in the right direction. So it’s a priority, and tomorrow we’re going near the contact line precisely to see the situation on the ground.
Another political condition concerns the presentation of the Ukrainian bill on local elections and the status of the Donbass.
Finally, as regards security, a milestone may be reached next week, which – if it succeeds – will be a consolidation stage and give hope for preparing the summit in the framework of the Normandy format. It involves the signing of an agreement on disengagement, and the start of disengagement in three pilot areas, which will have to be followed, of course, by other stages. I won’t go back over all the points and conditions Frank-Walter Steinmeier mentioned – and I agree with them, of course –, but next week is an important stage. I hope it will be a success, [and it should be] if everyone pulls their weight, all the parties of course – that’s essential.
Q. – Are you coming here to Ukraine as allies or arbitrators?
THE MINISTER – I’m coming here as a friend of Ukraine – a country which is a friend of Ukraine, clearly –, in support of the reforms embarked on, which are enabling this country’s future to be assured democratically, economically and socially, and recalling our commitment to the integrity of Ukraine’s borders. But in the face of the problems we’re experiencing, particularly in the Donbass, which we’ve been describing just now, we’re also coming as facilitators of peace, facilitators of negotiations to find a solution – in accordance with the agreements that have been signed, the Minsk agreements, and a method, the Normandy format, i.e. the Franco-German partnership for making progress on these issues.
Q. – Could you give some details of the sequence whereby the Minsk agreements’ political aspect will be implemented – particularly constitutional reform, amnesty and the organization of elections?
THE MINISTER – To answer your question, I believe it’s like building a house. We’re at the foundations stage. And the foundations are the ceasefire – which I’ve talked to you about –, the signature of the agreement on disengagement in the three pilot areas, and the presentation of the bill on local elections and the status of the Donbass. That’s an initial stage, in a way.
Then, without a break, there’s the adoption of bills by the Rada: electoral reform, the reform of the status of the Donbass and at the same time, in parallel, an extension of the pilot disengagement areas. We’re beginning with three; we may move to eight. Withdrawal and storage of heavy weapons, suspension of mine laying and military exercises; full access by OSCE observers and deployment of OSCE forward patrol bases. I believe that’s the second pillar. And the third is the Rada – which sets the date for local elections –, it’s the adoption of constitutional reform and it’s the amnesty law. And also in parallel, still at the same time, it’s disengagement all along the front line, the opening of new crossing points, the exchange of all prisoners, the return of hostages – if we can do things even faster – and then completing the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and the arrival of observers at the border. There you are; I think we must make progress towards this, and the first stage is next week. If there is indeed an agreement next week, then a new momentum will begin./.