Normandy Four meeting sees no sensations and breakthroughsSerhiy Taran
The meeting of the Normandy Four foreign ministers Foreign Ministries (France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia) were held for the first time in more than a year. The fact that such a meeting has taken place is already a good thing because it means that the Normandy format has not been exhausted.
Following the meeting, we can say that some results can be expected in the issue of the release of Ukrainian hostages and prisoners, which was discussed by the top diplomats. There are good chances of a successful solution to the said problem. In principle, Russia can agree for the exchange of Ukrainians held in prisons, for Russian spies or terrorists who have been arrested in Ukraine. The fact that foreign mediators are involved in the process is an absolute plus and increases our chances.
Following the meeting, we can say that some results can be expected in the issue of the release of Ukrainian hostages and prisoners, which was discussed by the top diplomats. There are good chances of a successful solution to the said problem
The negotiators paid great attention to the issue of the introduction of a peacekeeping mission to Donbas. I am skeptical about this possibility, but Ukraine should participate in such negotiations so that our Western partners could see that we are ready to support the idea of introducing the peacekeeping mission in the east of Ukraine, as we are interested in settling the conflict as soon as possible. We will not see the outcome of negotiations on the issue right away, as Russia continues to disagree on the format of the peacekeeping mission offered by Ukraine and the West. But the indirect result of such a meeting, in which the position of the Russian Federation will become clear, could be a prolongation of Russia sanctions Russia and assistance to Ukraine.
I emphasize that Ukraine should actively participate in such talks in order to demonstrate its readiness to peacefully resolve the conflict, before the introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission, and also that our position coincides with that of the West, while Russia's doesn't.
Also during the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Paris would work toward forming a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, but first it is necessary to see success in the implementation of Minsk agreements, that is, we're observing a strict link to the "Minsk." This seems unlikely to be realistic because in order for the Minsk accords to be fulfilled, Russian troops must withdraw from the territory of Ukraine. As we can see, Russia is not in a hurry to do that so far. That is why there will be a lot of questions here regarding the sequence of steps. And the process can last for a long time.
Therefore, I repeat, the result of these negotiations should not be the immediate introduction of a peacekeeping mission to Donbas, but a continuation of the sanctions pressure on Russia.
In addition, when Pavlo Klimkin reported on the meeting at the level of heads of foreign ministries, he pointed to the differences in the positions and views of Ukraine and Russia on what exactly the mission should be about. I do not think that on this issue, we will be able to find some common denominator with Russia and reach an agreement because for Russia, the fulfillment of such conditions will mean the need to just withdraw from Ukraine and publicly acknowledge that its troops were in fact there.
The result of these negotiations should not be the immediate introduction of a peacekeeping mission to Donbas, but a continuation of the sanctions pressure on Russia
For Russia, an ideal option for Donbas "settlement" would be the actual return of the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine under government control, while keeping them practically controlled from the outside. But this is totally unacceptable for Ukraine.
Therefore, so far, I don't see any chances that peacekeepers will come to Donbas on the conditions that Ukraine and our Western partners put forward.
So, summing up, I would note that it is good that the meeting of the heads of Normandy Four foreign ministries took place because this is another platform to address the problem of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The second thing is that the issue of hostages and prisoners was discussed because we have chances and a history of success in resolving it, so we can hope that something will be done in this regard. Thirdly, the possibility of introducing a peacekeeping mission to Donbas is still perceived with skepticism, because Russia does not agree to the proposed format. But due to the fact that Russia will not go for the format proposed by Ukraine and the West, Moscow will see more sanctions, and we will get more aid.
It is good that the meeting of Normandy Four foreign ministers took place because this is another platform to address the Russian-Ukrainian war
Finally, as regards the prospects of the Normandy Four summit at the level of leaders of participating states, the preparation of which was announced by heads of foreign ministries following their meeting. I do not see any new topics that can be put to the discussion at the top level. When can this meeting take place? In principle, in diplomacy, predictions don't make much sense. So these talks can take place in six months or even a year, probably when, in theory, Putin agrees to give in to the demands of the West, but I don't think it will be achieved easily.
Moreover, one should not forget that an election campaign will soon unfold in Ukraine, and Putin is unlikely to want to play into the hands with the current government. Therefore, I don't think that the summit of the Normandy Four leaders will take place anytime soon. It will be preceded by extremely complex negotiations. And the meeting will be possible only when at the level of the heads of foreign ministries there is at least some progress that the leaders of states can further develop.
Serhiy Taran is a Drector of the International Institute of Democracies, Chairman of the Board of the Center for Sociological and Political Studies "Sotsovymir"