German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the upcoming meeting of the Normandy Four group, comprising Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.
According to the German cabinet’s official spokesman, Steffen Seibert, "both [leaders] share the opinion that requirements for a meeting in this format were met on October 1, when the Contact Group managed to agree on further disengagement along the line of contact, on sequence of holding local elections in eastern Ukrainian territories and on introduction of a special status for this region."
In his words, Merkel and Zelensky stressed the importance of agreeing on future deliveries of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine as soon as possible.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told TASS on Wednesday that there was a possibility that the foreign ministers of the Normandy Four group (comprising Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine) would meet prior to the summit, but a meeting of this kind "should take place with a clear understanding that the Ukrainian side has implemented the agreements." "There is a chance but the conditions, as I see it, are not ripe yet until Ukraine fulfils all its commitments, agreed among others at the Contact Group on September 18," he added.
At a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk held on October 1, the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Leonid Kuchma, signed the text outlining the "Steinmeier formula." The plan put forward by then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in late 2015 stipulates that special status be granted to Donbass in accordance with the Minsk agreements. In particular, the document envisages that Ukraine’s special law on local self-governance will take effect in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on a temporary basis on the day of local elections, becoming permanent after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issues a report on the vote’s outcome.
The Ukrainian president’s office said on Wednesday in a statement about results of talks between the leaders of Germany and Ukraine that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised to use her upcoming talks with Russian and French officials for reaching an agreement on the date of the Normandy format summit.
"Angela Merkel stressed that Germany’s support for Ukraine on the path toward peace in Donbass remained unchanged. She said she would use her upcoming contacts with Normandy format partners to reach an agreement on the date of the summit," the statement says.
Besides, according to Kiev, Merkel and Zelensky discussed the disengagement of forces in eastern Ukraine’s region of Donbass.
"Vladimir Zelensky informed his interlocutor about the security situation in Donbass. [The sides] also discussed matters of disengagement in the areas of Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, and the repair of bridge near Stanitsa Luganskaya," the Ukrainian president’s office said.
At the latest meeting of the Contact Group on October 1 the parties to the conflict agreed to start the disengagement process in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye on October 7, according to OSCE Special Representative at peace talks Martin Sajdik. The pullback failed to begin on time and was postponed till October 9.
The Donbass republics reported on Wednesday that Ukraine had disrupted the disengagement of forces near Zolotoye (the Lugansk Republic) and Petrovskoye (Donetsk Republic). The DPR mission at the Joint Control and Coordination Center said another disengagement attempt would follow on Thursday, October 10. OSCE observers will so far remain in the disengagement area in the hope that Thursday’s attempt would be a success.