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    Reasons Behind France, Germany Adopting Russian Approach to Ukrainian Crisis

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    On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Ukraine. Their talks with the Ukrainian government resulted in a peace settlement plan which turned out to be close to Moscow’s strategy on the issue.

    In particular, France and Germany proposed to turn over control of the Russia-Donbass border to Kiev after all other obligations are met.

    The strategy was outlined in detail by the French minister at a press-conference. The plan prescribes the procedure of the implementation of the Minsk agreements and includes three stages.

    The first stage prescribes a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from demarcation lines in the three "pilot security zones." At the same time, laws on elections in Donbass and Donbass’ special status should be worked out.

    At the second stage, the Ukrainian Parliament is expected to pass those laws. The number of security zones should be increased from 3 to 10 and heavy weapons should be withdrawn. Observers should be granted access to the region.

    Finally, the Parliament is expected to decide on the day of election in Donbass and complete decentralization reforms. Amnesty should be declared for all participants of combat actions. Only then, the Ukrainian military can take control over the border.

    Despite the fact that the new strategy is totally different from Kiev’s approach, neither Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin nor President Petro Poroshenko opposed the plan.

    The Ukrainian government has insisted that bills on Donbass elections, the region’s special status and amnesty can be passed only after Ukraine restores control over the border.

    Now, it seems that the Normandy Four is leaning towards Russia’s approach, an article on the Russian analytical website Svobodnaya Pressa read.

    The plan proposed by Ayrault is a breakthrough for Paris’s and Berlin’s stance towards the Ukrainian crisis, Kiev-based political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky said.

    "Previously France and Germany did not accept Moscow’s proposals on the issue. But now they have declared their support. However, the problem is that chances are slim to implement the deal, at least under the current parliament and president in Ukraine," Pogrebinsky told Svobodnaya Pressa.

    Nevertheless, this is a landmark attempt in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, he added. Europe abandoned its previous strategy which was not effective.

    In the next year, Germany will hold parliament elections and France will hold its presidential election. If there is no progress over Ukraine this will be a heavy blow to the ruling parties of both countries, he explained.

    The new strategy is based on step-by-step principles. The Minks agreements cannot be implemented taking into account the current level of mistrust between the parties involved. The new plan presumes that one side takes a step and the other side responds, the expert explained.

    However, he underscored, Kiev has not demonstrated so far that it is ready to implement the agreements.

    "Chances are slim to implement the French-German strategy. But hope is the last to die," Pogrebinsky said.

    As for the United States, the new initiative is likely to have been approved by Washington.

    "Washington is now focused on the upcoming presidential election. The US is ready to support any proposals from its French and German partners, making them responsible for the situation," the analyst said.

    France and Germany are mounting efforts in imposing the Minsk Agreements, said Bogdan Bezpalko, deputy head of the Center for Ukrainian Studies at the Moscow State University.

    "A new round political and diplomatic struggle is coming in the Ukrainian settlement. It will include Berlin and Paris," he said.


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    Minsk agreements, military conflict, talks, Normandy Format, Petro Poroshenko, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Donbass, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France
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