Thu, 28 Jan 2021

The French presidency says Paris will host a four-way summit on December 9 seeking to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, following months of diplomatic efforts to get all sides to agree on new talks.

The meeting will see Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, meeting face-to-face for the first time.

The two leaders will join French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first such four-way talks, known as the Normandy Format, in more than three years.

Zelenskiy's office confirmed the date of the summit, but there was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.

Fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions since April 2014.

Macron's office said it was time for a new summit because of "major progress" since the summer, including troop withdrawals from key frontline areas over the past several weeks.

Russia and Ukraine also exchanged a total of 70 prisoners in September.

The meeting 'will allow the opening of a new series of steps to put in place the Minsk agreements' that sought to put an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said.

Cease-fire road maps announced as part of the Minsk accords, sponsored by France and Germany and signed in the Belarusian capital in September 2014 and February 2015, have contributed to a decrease in fighting in eastern Ukraine but have failed to hold.

Ukraine and the separatists last month signed a tentative agreement on holding elections in the rebel-held areas, a move that prompted substantial criticism among Ukrainians who saw the move as "capitulation" to Russia.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany first met in Normandy in 2014 and last met in this format in October 2016, although discussions have continued at a lower level.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and TASS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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