Four-way talks on ending a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine finished without a breakthrough on Tuesday, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declaring that "lip service" statements were not enough to achieve lasting peace.
Amid low expectations, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia met in the Belarussian capital to discuss ways of implementing last year's Minsk ceasefire accord for Ukraine's Donbass region.
Steinmeier said both Ukraine and Russia had hardened their positions and there was no political agreement in sight on holding local elections in Donbass, as demanded by Russia and the Kremlin-backed separatists.
|Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) greets Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin as their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov stands nearby during talks on the crisis in eastern Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
"It was very tedious again today," Steinmeier said. "Pure lip service will not be enough to solve this conflict."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile pushed back on a Ukrainian proposal to allow armed OSCE monitors in Donbass.
"There weren't any breakthroughs today. The Minsk agreements are stalled -- we're not managing to agree on the sequence of steps," Lavrov told reporters.
Highlighting some positives, Steinmeier did, however, say the International Red Cross could help facilitate a significant exchange of prisoners before the end of the year and was optimistic about more phased troops withdrawals taking place.