French President details latest Ukraine talks
Ukraine/Russia/Normandy-format summit – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany (excerpts)
Paris, 2 October 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, we had a long meeting, and I thank Angela for organizing with me the process that has enabled us to have a Normandy-format meeting today with President Putin and President Poroshenko. The day was essentially devoted to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the very ones we signed in Minsk at the beginning of the year.
We wanted to stress four dimensions.
The first is security. We wanted to ensure that the withdrawal of light weapons, which was approved through an agreement a few days ago, could begin as early as tomorrow morning from midnight, that there could be a similar process for heavy weapons and that we could put on the seals in accordance with the OSCE’s wishes. We also wanted the OSCE to have free, safe access throughout Ukrainian territory and even access to the border itself. Finally, mine-clearance activities will be started without delay for the sake of the people’s safety, and drones will be able to continue their mission. This aspect of security is where there has been most progress since Minsk, because the ceasefire is now being comprehensively observed and we’ve been able to set in motion, stage by stage, the withdrawal of weapons.
Today we managed to make new progress and ensure there will be no more victims in what’s been an especially grave and tragic conflict. But the Minsk agreements don’t only comprise the ceasefire, the withdrawal of light and heavy weapons, monitoring and the opportunity for the OSCE to go everywhere.
The second dimension, on which we spent the most time, is the political process. So we wanted the possibility of elections, local elections, being held according to Ukrainian electoral law, but also being organized in the framework of a working group and in such a way as to enable the ballot to be indisputable. We issued an appeal for all the parties to embark on this process, which means that the elections planned for 18 October can’t be held, in our view, because they don’t meet the conditions we set.
At the same time, elections must be organized, and to that end an electoral law must be passed, and that electoral law must also be debated in the framework of this working group. Once the electoral law has been passed, a 90-day period will begin for the elections to be organized. That’s our wish, and it’s the wish that was expressed here.
There’s also a very important provision on amnesty that is due to come into force on the very day of the elections, and immunity that is due to be granted to all the candidates during the election period. The very important point was the status of the eastern regions, known as the special law for the regions, and on that point we agreed it would apply from the day of the elections, provisionally at first and definitively on the day the OSCE considers the electoral process to be indisputable. Finally, we recalled the goals of the Minsk agreements, namely the ultimate restoration of total control over the border and the withdrawal of foreign armed units.
The third dimension – I’ll be quicker and we’ll come back to it – is humanitarian assistance, and on that point we decided that the number of crossing points would be increased, that things would be opened up to the humanitarian organizations – the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières etc. – and that the prisoner exchange process should continue at a faster pace.
At economic level, we mainly discussed the agreement on gas. It was initialled, it will be signed and so it will have to be implemented.
Finally, our four foreign ministers will meet at the beginning of November to take stock of this process.
If I wanted to sum up what we’ve done in the course of the day, it’s been to assess the Minsk agreements and continue the process, taking into account all the realities so that, beyond the timeframes initially planned, we can succeed in every dimension of the Minsk agreements.
Once again I thank all four participants – because in order for us to be in the Normandy format there must be four of us – and I thank Angela because we’ve been together since the beginning of this process and we intend to bring it to a successful conclusion. (…)./.