The foreign ministers of Germany and France have expressed hope that an East Ukraine peace deal might be within reach after talks with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in Paris on Tuesday. The Normandy Four, as the group is known, have been meeting periodically to discuss the status of the Minsk II agreement, signed in February, and explore ways to bring the 15-month long conflict to a peaceful conclusion.
"I hope that today in the discussion we had together we have cleared the way for an agreed ceasefire in the region,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “We cannot reach it only on a political level. We now need military experts from the OSCE."
Despite the hope, all ministers have expressed “deep concern” about the deteriorating situation in the contested region of Donbas, where the sekf-proclaimed pro-Russian rebel republics of Luhansk and Donetsk are located. The four ministers have called for tanks and weapons of calibers less than 100mm to be out of range of the front line by June 26, according to the press service of the Foreign Ministry of France.
Also involved in talks over the crisis was the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the group charged with overseeing the ceasefire in east Ukraine -- a ceasefire that has been officially in effect since February but has been breached almost every day since. The organization held discussions with representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the pro-Russian rebels in Minsk, but little progress was made according to the OSCE delegate Heidi Tagliavini. "We cannot talk about concrete results today. The work continues," she said.
OSCE monitors reported on Monday more than 360 explosions near Donetsk airport. The OSCE report said that the explosions were consistent with automatic grenade launchers, heavy machine gun and small-arms and light-weapons fire.
Meanwhile, U.S.-based analysts are no longer predicting that pro-Russian rebels, alongside Russian troops, are trying to build a land-bridge from East Ukraine to Crimea. A new report by Stratfor, a U.S. geopolitical intelligence firm that provides strategic analysis and forecasting to individuals and organizations, says that the nature of the conflict has changed and most clashes are localized around town and cities on the demarcation line rather than pushing towards Crimea on the Black Sea coast.