France tells Ukraine 'no plan B' to ending war

France tells Ukraine 'no plan B' to ending war

Kiev (AFP) - The French foreign minister told Ukraine on Wednesday there was "no plan B" to a tattered blueprint for ending a 29-month pro-Russian revolt that has destabilised the European Union's backyard.

The visit by Jean-Marc Ayrault and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier for talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came after one of the bloodiest days in weeks saw government forces and the separatists lose three fighters each.

International monitors warn that clashes in the former Soviet republic have returned to the highest level in a year.

The two European powers helped negotiate a February 2015 deal that was meant to end the bloodshed and decide the status of the rebel-run regions by the end of last year.

But the so-called Minsk Agreements and a subsequent series of ceasefires have done little to halt daily battles that have killed nearly 9,600 people and destroyed much of Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland.

Germany and France thus feel politically bound to find a lasting solution to one of Europe's bloodiest crises in decades and mend ties with Russia after accusing it of stirring and backing the revolt -- a charge Moscow denies.

The Cold War-style tensions have effectively frozen Western trade ties with Russia and torn apart trust at a time when Washington needs Moscow to resolve the complex wars in Syria and Iraq

Both Ayrault and Steinmeier urged Kiev's pro-Western leaders to commit themselves more fully to the 13-point plan agreed in Minsk under which the rebels would get partial autonomy within a unified Ukraine.

"There is no plan B," Ayrault said at a joint press conference in Kiev with Steinmeier and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

"The Minsk agreement must be implemented."

Steinmeier added "we came with a promise from Moscow that effective (Thursday) there will be a truce that will last at least a week."

Poroshenko on Tuesday urged parliament to pass "decentralisation" legislation that would give more freedom to regions like the separatist provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk.

But lawmakers feel the measure and another law on elections in rebel-run regions would effectively cede the war zone to Russia and refuse to back the bills.

The resulting diplomatic stalemate has been reflected by warfare in which neither side gains ground while causing havoc that destroys homes and causes almost daily casualties.

Ukraine's foreign minister argued for his part that Kiev needed a "clear vision and consequential steps whose implementation is guaranteed by Russia".

Moscow says the terms of a peace deal can only be agreed in direct talks by Kiev and the rebels -- which Poroshenko has refused to hold

The two European diplomats are due Thursday to visit the government-held frontline city of Kramatorsk.

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