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27 May 2017
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OpinionNormandy Quartet: New meeting, old expectations

The main topic on the agenda of the Normandy Four meeting between the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia, due to be held on the sidelines of the G20 summit February 16-17 will be the issue of compliance with a ceasefire. Kyiv stresses the impossibility of moving to any development of a dialogue on Donbas settlement before the issue is resolved.

Before Petro Poroshenko's visit to Washington, we will see no significant developments and solutions

Besides, the parties will discuss the roadmap for Minsk-2 implementation. For France, Germany, and partly for Russia, Minsk-2 and a set of measures which it envisages require no additional legitimization as they have been approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council. I believe, Germany and France will try to offer some sort of compromise. If we consider a recent interview with German Ambassador to Ukraine Ernst Reichel, the sense of this compromise can boil down to this: ceasefire in Donbas is necessary but the elections in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions can’t be questioned, either. Moreover, the non-participation of separatists in these elections is no-go. They shall have an opportunity to run for posts. At the same time, the question of Ukraine regaining control over parts of its border with Russia and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Donbas will be postponed to the next stage following the Donbas elections. It seems that this is the way the logic will be shaped.

Only the reduction of attacks is possible. However, this requires substantial external pressure from France and Germany as well

So far, it would be premature to rely on the fact that Kyiv will go for any compromises within that scheme. The thing is that Poroshenko first wants to meet Trump. Therefore, I believe that before Petro Poroshenko's visit to Washington, we will see no significant developments and solutions.

Will Russia or the separatists cease fire completely following this meeting? I believe, they won’t. That’s because the separatists declare that they are, in fact, in a state of war with Ukraine. Only the reduction of attacks is possible. However, this requires substantial external pressure from France and Germany as well.

Besides, if Bavaria leader Horst Seehofer actually managed to reach some kind of an agreement in Washington, France and Germany may present an ultimatum to both Russia and Ukraine. First of all, it may regard the security aspects, like a ceasefire, separation of forces and access for monitors. Besides, it may touch upon the continuation of talks on the political aspects. We can’t count on anything more than that so far.

So, the outcome of the Normandy Four foreign ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, given a firm stance of Germany and France, may only see a certain decrease in the number of militant attacks and reduced intensity of the conflict. As for the roadmap for the coordination of political steps, nothing will move forward until Poroshenko visits Washington. If he hears some answers there, the Ukrainian position may as well be adjusted.

Serhiy Tolstov is a director of the Institute of Political Analysis and International Studies

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