German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will seek the establishment of ceasefire in Donbas by the beginning of the school year in Ukraine.
Merkel made the relevant statement before the start of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held in the German government's retreat in Meseberg, a picturesque castle outside Berlin, Deutsche Welle reports.
In a brief statement to the press, which outlined the main topics of the forthcoming dialogue, Merkel noted that a stable ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was still not achieved. She said she would discuss with Putin the possibility of engaging the UN peacekeeping mission, which might have played a role in the pacification of the parties.
Putin, in turn, noted Russia's interest in the work within the Normandy format and the contact group for the Donbas settlement. Moscow will continue to assist the "UN special monitoring mission", he emphasized.
On the eve of the meeting in Meseberg, Merkel's spokesperson Steffen Seibert named three key topics the pair would concentrate on: Syria, Ukraine and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
One of the possible subjects of discussion is the format of a possible UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine. Moscow advocates that, in case of sending "blue helmets" to the region, they are deployed along the demarcation line, separating Kyiv-controlled areas from the so-called "DPR" and "LPR" (unrecognized self-proclaimed "Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics"). One of the major tasks of peacekeepers should be the protection of the OSCE SMM.
Kyiv and Western countries offer to place "blue helmets" throughout the conflict area and significantly expand their range of tasks.
Another issue is the situation in Idlib, one of the last Syrian provinces controlled by the opposition. Syrian government forces plan a major offensive there, which will inevitably lead to mass casualties, including among the civilian population.
The third issue of mutual interest is the construction of the 1,200-kilometer Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the role of Ukraine in gas transit from Russia. Berlin expects certain guarantees from the Kremlin in this regard.
On the eve of the meeting, experts expressed doubt that the sides will be able to achieve a decisive breakthrough in Meseberg. Expert at Berlin-based Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) Sabine Fisher noted that Russia's position on Syria and Ukraine had not undergone any significant changes lately. Merkel also said that it would be a working meeting, and one should not wait for special results from it.