Marathon Minsk talks culminate in Ukraine ceasefire deal

The marathon night-long Minsk talks have ended with a successful conclusion on Thursday as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin reached a ceasefire agreement to halt the 10-month long conflict and also agreed to withdraw heavy weapons.

Marathon Minsk talks culminate in Ukraine ceasefire deal

Minsk: The marathon night-long Minsk talks have ended with a successful conclusion on Thursday as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin reached a ceasefire agreement to halt the 10-month long conflict and also agreed to withdraw heavy weapons.

The ceasefire is due to begin on coming Sunday, that is, February 15. the agreement also called for withdrawal of heavy weapons that would begin on 17 Feb and be completed in two weeks, the BBC reported.

Also, all prisoners are supposed to be released and those involved in fighting would be granted amnesty.

Another significant point of the agreement calls for constitutional reforms to enable decentralisation for rebel regions by the end of 2015 and Ukraine control of border with Russia to be completed by the end of 2015, added the report.

Talking to the reporters after the marathon talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to bloodshed as soon as possible, reports said.

"It wasn't the best night for me, but it's a good morning," he told on Russian TV, cited the BBC

Calling it a "ray of hope", German government spokesman Steffen Seibert informed on Twitter that the two sides had agreed to ceasefire and weapons withdrawal after 17 hours of talks at Minsk.

However German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier dropped dollops of caution and refused to call it a breakthrough, saying, "Agreement is not a breakthrough, but could be a step from a spiral of military escalation towards political momentum".

Calling the negotiations a difficult process, he also cautioned both sides to "refrain from doing anything that could jeopardize #Minsk agreement until ceasefire takes effect".

 

However, in what highlighted the extent of difficulty in reaching the deal,  Poroshenko told AFP in a break during the summit that Russian conditions at Minsk summit were `unacceptable`.

"Unfortunately there`s no good news yet," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko  during the four-way peace summit. He however added that Merkel and Hollande were helping Ukraine a lot.  "There is always hope..We`re in non-stop talks, as you can see, the situation is very difficult, Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande are helping us a lot, but for now the situation is difficult," AFP quoted him as saying.

Brokered by France and Hollande, the crucial four-way Ukraine peace summit was hosted by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at his Presidential Palace where the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia chaffered for hours about the terms of the new deal. 

The  atmosphere during the talks was apparently tense as according to a BBC report, there were hardly any smiles on the leaders' faces as they sat down to hammer out a peace deal. Also, the visuals of Poroshenko shaking hands with Putin ahead of the summit, were enough to gauge the amount of unease between the two leaders. According to the BBC, there was also an image of Vladimir Putin at the negotiating table, snapping a pencil in two. 

The leaders of the four nations, Petro Proshenko, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin wrangled for more than 17 hours as they exerted a last-ditch effort to reach a deal to end the violence in eastern Ukraine. 

Control of border territory with Russia is one of the key sticking points between Ukraine and rebels. While Ukraine will seek to restore the territories in accordance with the failed September Minsk deal, the rebels want the fresh peace deal to reflect the gains that they have made of late. 

Another contentious issue was about autonomy, while pro-Moscow rebels and Russia want that they should be given autonomy over the captured areas, Ukraine reportedly is in the favour of a mere decentralisation of powers.

Nearly 5400 people have been killed in Ukraine clashes since last April.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of fomenting the crisis by supplying heavy weapons to pro-Moscow separatists. However, Russia denies the claim.

An earlier ceasefire deal signed in Minsk, in Belarus, last September fell apart as rebels have continued battling the security forces and gained more ground.

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