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Crisis in Ukraine should be settled based on Minsk agreements - French defence minister

The Ukrainian crisis should be settled by political means on the basis of the Minsk agreements, France's Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday.

"The recent initiative on settlement from France's President Francois Hollande and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are absolutely necessary," he said in an interview with i-Tele on Sunday.

"As yet, a total war in Ukraine may be avoided. If political will is used, peace in Ukraine is possible. That should be done by three parties - Europe, Ukraine's President Pyotr Poroshenko and Russia's President Vladimir Putin," the minister said.

He stressed "the settlement should be on the basis of the Minsk agreements." "France has been doing everything possible for Ukraine's territory integrity. A military solution to the crisis is impossible."

He called the present negotiations as "intensive".

"We are moving towards the peace, and everything should be done to make the initiatives successful," the defence minister said adding the current negotiations "are the last chance" for a successful settlement of the crisis by political means. "If failed, if the negotiations are at deadlock, the events may develop simply tragically."

Threat to Europe

While commenting on the situation in the world, he said "presently there are threats both to the east and to the south from Europe."

Combat actions between the Ukrainian military and militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics during Kiev's military operation in the country's east conducted since mid-April 2014 have claimed over 5,300 lives and displaced nearly a million people to flee their homes seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, according to the UN data.

Mediatory efforts of Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe /OSCE/ yielded results in September, where talks between the parties to the Ukrainian conflict were held in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.

Two weeks later, on September 20, the Contact Group adopted a memorandum on implementing a ceasefire. The nine-item document includes a ban on all weapons, pulling back heavy weapons from the line of engagement and setting up a buffer zone of 15 kilometres. It also entrusts the OSCE with a task of controlling implementation of the agreements.

On December 9, the parties to the conflict announced "the regime of silence" in the area of Kiev's combat operation in Donbass aiming to come over to implementation of the Minsk accords.

Both Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics declared an urgency to pull back heavy weapons, to exchange prisoners of war and to demilitarise the region.

On January 12, foreign ministers of the "Normandy Quartet" comprising Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine held a meeting in Berlin. The ministers noted at the negotiations their readiness to meet in the coming week following the political directors' meeting as a condition.

In late January, the situation deteriorated after a passenger bus en route from Donetsk to Zlatoustovka came under shelling on January 13. Twelve civilians were killed and at least 16 wounded. Artillery shelling and bombing strikes at Donbass cities have intensified killing dozens of peaceful civilians, including women, children, and the elderly.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arrived in Kiev for talks with President Poroshenko in order to settle the crisis. On Friday, the European leaders arrived in Moscow.

It took Putin, Hollande and Merkel about five hours to try to find a way out of the Ukrainian crisis. No details of the talks both in Kiev and Moscow have been disclosed so far.

Special status for the country's eastern regions

The Ukrainian side supports the suggestion on a special status for the country's eastern regions, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told.

"Russia's announced objective is security for the people living in Ukraine's east," he said. "The problem may be solved by granting a special status to eastern parts" of Ukraine.

"We have discussed this with our Ukrainian friends, they agree with the suggestion on special status for those territories," the minister said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Paris, 08Feb15]

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