Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba has commented on the idea of creating the so-called "advisory council" under the political subgroup of Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas settlement, where "representatives" of the occupied areas of Donbas are expected to be included.
In an interview with Radio NV, he noted that the initiative had been conceived before he was appointed foreign minister, at the same time noting that he was not opposed to searching for new negotiation formats if they did not mean crossing certain "red lines" in relation to Donbas.
"I'm always up for looking for ways out of the deadlocks where negotiations are heading in various situations. We should always look for new formats and initiatives, at the same time without crossing the 'red lines' regarding Ukraine's positions," Kuleba said.
At the same time, the minister said that during a meeting of Normandy Four foreign ministers via video link, this initiative was not discussed in detail. Only the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, dwelled on the issue, according to Kuleba.
"There are formats that make it through; but there are those that don't. There are formats that initially aren't making it, but they do later on, and vice versa. That is, these are normal work processes. I take this as a routine. For me, the main thing is to make sure that Ukraine's position is strong and that we don't step beyond the 'red lines' of our state," the diplomat explained.
Separately, Kuleba emphasized that during yesterday's conversation with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, the issue of the "advisory council" had not been discussed.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on March 11, Minsk hosted the regular meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group for Donbas settlement with the participation of the head of Ukrainian President's Office Andriy Yermak and Deputy Head of Russian President's Administration Dmitry Kozak. The two agreed to sign the TCG decision on the establishment of an "advisory council" as part of the political subgroup following consultations with representatives of the OSCE, France, and Germany regarding the implementation of the agreements reached during the Normandy summit. The signing was scheduled to take place at the next meeting in Minsk on March 25.
Later, the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia outlet published a copy of the minutes of meeting signed in Minsk on March 11. According to the document, the criteria and the procedure for appointing council members shall be independently determined by Ukraine, certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Germany, France, and the OSCE. At the same time, 10 representatives from Ukraine and the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions will each have the right to cast votes, and one representative each from Russia, Germany, France, and the OSCE – the right to cast consultative votes.
A few days later, about 60 MPs with the Servant of the People party called on President Zelensky to halt the process of creation of the advisory council, which many said would legitimize Russian occupation authorities in Donbas, putting them on equal footing with the Ukrainian negotiators, while portraying Russia as a pure mediator in the conflict rather than a direct party to it.
On March 25, the TCG did not discuss the advisory council during a video link meeting.
On March 31, Yermak said the idea to set up such council would be considered following consultation with partners from France, Germany, and the OSCE.
On April 6, President Zelensky assured the public that the agreement on founding an Advisory Council under the auspices of the TCG would not legitimize Russian-controlled militants.