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German, French FMs push peace bid in war-torn Ukraine

Update: September, 16/2016 - 11:00

SLAVYANSK - The German and French foreign ministers have made their first visit to Ukraine’s war-torn east, saying they wanted to push a new bid for peace after a recent surge in violence.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault on Thursday visited the Donetsk region and viewed a bridge destroyed in fighting between separatist and government forces in the city of Slavyansk.

Ayrault said the two men were looking "to create the conditions for a summit" between French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

They were the architects of a peace deal drawn up in the Belarus capital Minsk in February 2015 which reduced the intensity of the fighting but has not succeeded in ending the conflict.

Ayrault said the ministers wanted to "create the conditions for a new way, a new step in the direction of peace."

The ministerial visit came after one of the bloodiest days in weeks on Tuesday which saw government forces and the separatists each lose three fighters.

"We need the fighting to stop so that advances can be made on the political front" Steinmeier said in comments published in the German Bild daily on Friday.

"We still have a lot of work to do to fully implement the Minsk accord," he added.

A United Nations report presented in Kiev on Thursday reported "escalation in hostilities and drastic increase in civilian casualties" in eastern Ukraine between May and August.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in the report that "the situation along the contact line remains deeply unstable" and "there is a real risk that a new outbreak of violence could happen at any time."

The report updated the conflict toll, saying that 9,640 people have been killed and 22,431 wounded on both sides. – AFP


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