Four-way summit on E. Ukraine gets underway in Paris

PARIS, Leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany started summit talks here on Monday afternoon aiming to ease tensions in East Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met for the first time with recently-elected Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky in what is viewed as a ground-breaking one-on-one between the two men.

Zelensky, a former comedian and novice politician, has said he wants to ease tensions with Russia and has already made symbolic, minor concessions to the ethnic Russian population that is backed by Moscow and has taken up arms for self-governance and autonomy from Kiev.

French President Emmanuel Macron is co-sponsoring the talks here under the “Normandy Format” which also includes participation by co-sponsor German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Several rounds of bilateral talks are taking place before a four-way session in the late evening.

While the Normandy Format is useful for dialogue and keeping the communications open between the warring parties, no major breakthroughs are expected today.

The Franco-German sponsored talks have, in the past, pressured the parties into respecting earlier agreements – known as the Minsk Accords – which have led to several truces, prisoner swaps and the withdrawal of some heavy weapons from the front in Eastern Ukraine, and also to the deployment of observers from the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Moscow heavily supports the Russian-ethnic forces that are pressuring the Ukrainian regular forces, who themselves get support from a number of Western governments, including the United States.

Source: Kuwait News Agency