Ukraine Live Day 573: ‘Very Close’ To A Deal On Withdrawal Of Heavy Weapons

September 13, 2015

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‘Very Close’ To A Deal On Withdrawal Of Heavy Weapons

Today Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Foreign Minister, said that negotiations in Minsk between all sides of this conflict were proceeding and the sides are “very close” to an agreement which could see the removal of heavy weapons from a buffer zone on either side of the line of demarcation in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. NPR reports:

“I can tell you with relief that our meeting today has been one of the less confrontational and more successful ones,” Steinmeier said in a statement.

“Both sides are not far apart,” the statement said.

Lavrov, speaking after the meeting, sounded a less optimistic note, saying that while the deal was “90 percent ready … the devil is in the details.”

The ministers agreed that the temporary truce, “‘needs to be further strengthened and safeguarded’ by a clear commitment to withdraw weapons from the conflict zone,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ reports: “The ministers also made ‘significant’ progress on key political issues such as plans for local elections in rebel-held areas. A separate working group will draw up the modalities and timing of local elections, based on proposals that are already on the table, Mr. Steinmeier said. The working group should quickly discuss all other questions that are still contentious—such as the election process and constitutional issues—based on existing proposals, he said.”

Yesterday The Interpreter‘s managing editor, who just returned from Kiev today, met with OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier and Michael Bociurkiw, spokesperson for the OSCE SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) in Ukraine. They both agreed that the ceasefire was largely holding, and that a deal on the withdrawal of heavy weapons could be reached soon. However, both cautioned that even if heavy weaponry is withdrawn to more than 50 kilometers from the line of demarcation, heavy fighting could be restarted within hours.

The OSCE leaders were also more skeptical about the prospects of local elections, which are supposed to be held on October 25 and would meet the requirements set forth in Minsk.

The interview with Zannier and Bociurkiw will be published tomorrow.

James Miller