MUNICH — Germany's foreign minister pressed for progress on a year-old peace plan for eastern Ukraine as he met Saturday with senior officials from Russia, Ukraine and France, saying he hopes that Moscow and Kiev realize that they don't have forever to implement the deal.
After the effort in Munich to push forward diplomatic efforts, Russia's prime minister and Ukraine's president exchanged accusations at a security conference in the city — underlining the depth of distrust between the two sides and the hurdles diplomats face.
Germany and France brokered the peace deal for eastern Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus, a year ago and have been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to try to implement it. Still, fighting hasn't fully stopped and there has been little progress in bringing about a political settlement.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted Saturday's meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Ukraine's Pavlo Klimkin, along with the French Foreign Ministry's political director Nicolas de Riviere. Steinmeier told the Munich Security Conference after the gathering that "not talking to each other in times of crisis can't be the answer."
In a written statement, he added that "we are still a fair way from implementing Minsk." He said the ministers called for proposals before their next meeting — which German officials hope will happen by the beginning of March — on how to ensure the cease-fire is better respected and prepare for local elections in eastern areas held by pro-Russian rebels.
"I am counting on it being clear to all those in positions of responsibility in Kiev and Moscow that we no longer have forever to implement what was agreed in Minsk," Steinmeier said. "We must not let up in our efforts to push the parties to the conflict to take further steps."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said later Saturday that the Minsk agreement must be observed by everyone — "but we believe that it's first and foremost up to the Kiev authorities to do that." He added that Ukraine hasn't amended its constitution as it was supposed to do and hasn't "lived up to its obligations on a broad amnesty" allowing everyone to vote in local elections.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, meanwhile, stressed the need to return control of the Ukrainian-Russian border to Kiev. Blasting Russia's actions in Ukraine and in Syria's civil war, he said they are "a demonstration that we live in a completely different universe with Russia."