BERLIN — The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France have agreed that fresh ceasefire talks involving the OSCE should start no later than Saturday on crisis-torn Ukraine.
"Ministers urge that the Contact Group should resume no later than July 5 with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable ceasefire," the four top diplomats said on Wednesday in a joint statement after talks in Berlin.
The so-called Contact Group represents Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had hastily convened the talks as fighting escalated in Ukraine after the government had ended a 10-day ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels that Kiev charged had been violated over 100 times by the separatists, claiming some 30 lives.
The German minister warned that in the past 48 hours the situation had "dramatically escalated... and might get totally out of control."
In a bid to de-escalate the crisis, the four ministers agreed that the violence should cease on all sides, hostages be released, and Ukraine border points with Russia be brought back under government control.
The ministers said they welcomed Russia's readiness to grant Ukrainian border guards access to Russian territory to reach the border checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk when a ceasefire is in place. Steinmeier cautioned that "of course we are aware of the fact that this is not the solution, not a magic formula that will put everything right overnight.
"But I believe that this is a first and an important step in the direction of a bilateral ceasefire. It offers up an opportunity for us and for all of us to seize right now." — AFP