Moscow: Talks on the Ukraine crisis can advance only when both sides fully observe a ceasefire in the country`s east to open the way for the full implementation of a four-month-old peace deal, Russia said on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after meeting ministers from Germany, France and Ukraine in Berlin on Monday that all had agreed that only a strict ceasefire could pave the way for the countries` leaders to meet in the Kazakh capital Astana.
"The need for strict observance of the ceasefire was underlined," Lavrov said in a statement, adding there would be another meeting of the so-called Contact Group - Russia, Ukraine, Europe`s OSCE security watchdog and pro-Russian rebels - to find ways to implement the ceasefire deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that Europe could not consider lifting sanctions against Russia until all elements of the 12-point agreement signed in September in the Belarussian capital Minsk were fully implemented.
The conflict has pushed relations between Russia and the West to their lowest ebb since the Cold War ended.
Kiev and Moscow blame each other for the failure to implement the Minsk deal and end the conflict in east Ukraine, where more than 4,700 people have been killed since mid-April in fighting between the rebels and the Ukrainian army.
Lavrov`s comments put an end to plans for talks in Astana on Thursday, to which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had invited the Russian, French and German leaders.
"According to the ministers, this (work on implementing the deal) will allow plans for a successful summit in Astana to move forward. It was agreed that it was necessary to work more on this," Lavrov said.
Lavrov also said there was a greater understanding that all parties in Ukraine should be involved in talks about constitutional change. Moscow has pressed hard for the self-declared separatist administrations in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to have a say over the future of Ukraine.