ASTANA – Astana might be hosting a critical summit of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany to seek lasting solutions to the months-long conflict in and over eastern Ukraine.
The planned meeting of the “Normandy Four” was first made public by the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as he held a press conference in Kiev on Dec. 29.
“My diplomatic year will kick off on January 15 in Astana, where we will hold a meeting, as already agreed, in the ‘Normandy Format.’ We have assigned our foreign ministers to work on the agenda and draft resolutions from this summit,” he announced according to the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency.
The news comes following President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev’s latest visits to Kiev and Moscow, his meeting with French President Francois Hollande and a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as a flurry of high-level contacts between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany over the past few days.
“As a result of talks with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and President of Russia Vladimir Putin an agreement was reached on a possible meeting of the two leaders in Astana in presence of Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and President of France Francois Hollande,” the Dec. 30 statement on the Kazakh President’s official website said.
“Kazakhstan is ready to host negotiations on Jan. 15-16 or any other date that is convenient for the parties,” the statement said as it left the door open for a possible change in the dates.
The name “Normandy Four” stuck after Russian President Vladimir Putin, Poroshenko, Hollande and Merkel held the first such meeting in France on June 6 on the sidelines of the commemorative events of the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy.
Poroshenko was quick to add that the new meeting in Astana in no way undermines the “Minsk Format,” where senior representatives of the European Commission were present rather than leaders of the European Union’s two political powerhouses, Paris and Berlin.
“We are committed to the Minsk agreements,” Poroshenko maintained.
In the meantime, officials in Moscow, Paris and Berlin have not yet formally confirmed that such a summit will be taking place.
At the same time, China welcomed and supported the efforts of leaders from Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine in seeking a political resolution to the Ukraine crisis, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Dec. 30 as quoted by Xinhua.
China hopes parties concerned will work out a comprehensive, balanced and sustained resolution at an early date, which will accommodate the interests and concerns of all parties, for rapid realization of peace, security, stability and development in Ukraine and the whole region, Hua said at a regular press briefing.