Without a breakthrough and alternatives: what ended the summit “channel four”

The meeting of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in Berlin in the framework of the “Normandy format” (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) lasted almost five hours. These are the first talks in this format for the year. A breakthrough in the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis could not be reached. The participants expressed their commitment to the Minsk agreements and agreed to continue consultations. Experts predicted this result and warn of the lack of alternatives meetings in “Norman format”.

Road map

The talks were held without the press. After the meeting the first journalists came Poroshenko. He said that the foreign Minister “channel four” have by the end of November to present a road map – an implementation plan reached in February 2015 with the Minsk agreements. The President of Ukraine stressed that the “road map” needs to work out the order of implementation of the Minsk agreements. Priority for Kiev he called security, who informed the Ukrainian side called main.

Under the Minsk agreements means agreed in February 2015 at the summit in the Belarusian capital document. Among its provisions: mutual withdrawal of troops, the elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, constitutional reform in Ukraine, creation of conditions for the resumption of work in the social sphere in the South-East of the country, Amnesty to combatants. In the media of the February agreement is sometimes called Minsk-2, differing him from the Minsk Protocol signed in September 2014.

Poroshenko also said that the Normandy four agreed to enter the Donbass armed police mission under the OSCE aegis. Positions of this organization will appear in the created three pilot zones. Then to begin negotiations on four counts of breeding forces, said the President of Ukraine. Poroshenko confirmed his commitment to the release of prisoners on the principle of “all for all”.

Press-Putin’s approach took place later, the Russian leader discussed with Hollande and Merkel the situation in Syria. The Russian President confirmed the readiness to extend the OSCE mission in the zone of removal and storage of heavy equipment. “Much attention was paid to security issues and agreed on a number of items that should be done in the near future to further address issues related to breeding of the conflicting parties”, – he said (quoted by TASS). Putin stressed that the work on the implementation of the special status of Donetsk and Lugansk national republics will continue. The Kremlin has previously described the key political aspect of the Minsk agreements, which provide for elections in DND and LNR, as well as constitutional changes in Ukraine. Putin expressed regret in connection with absence, according to him, progress in resolving humanitarian problems in the South-East of Ukraine.

In talks in Berlin with Putin were the head of the Ministry of foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and presidential aide Vladislav Surkov. The last is from March 2014 under EU sanctions that ban him entry to the participating countries of the EU.

Hollande and Merkel also confirmed work on a “road map”. The French President said the foreign Ministers “channel four” will be engaged in the preparation of the elections in the Donbass.

The German Chancellor said in Berlin that was already developed a preliminary version of the “road map” with a large number of inconsistencies. Merkel admitted that the security issues in the East of Ukraine can be linked to a political settlement.

“We discussed a workflow that has many sides and from which to push off while working on such topics as security, political process. And it should be continued in the framework of the “road map” for the various steps of the complex of measures on implementation of Minsk agreements. And this is progress,” she said (quoted by TASS).

Thus, Putin, Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko, failed to agree on the beginning of work on the road map, but its specific content and the priority items that remain unclear. It is significant that during communication with journalists disagreements arose and another key for the Berlin meeting point – of the OSCE mission. While Poroshenko announced the return at the Donbass armed police under the auspices of the OSCE, his Russian counterpart said only about the readiness to extend the OSCE mission in the zone of removal and storage of heavy equipment. Merkel attempts to forge a compromise between Moscow and Kiev in the question of priority provisions of the Minsk agreement is also not convincing.

In addition, Merkel and Hollande went with Clinton on the issue of elections in the Donbass. Paris and Berlin insist on their holding, while Kiev believes that “about the election, now it is not”.

Difficult way to Berlin

The October talks in Berlin were preparing in a big hurry. 10 Oct possible meeting in the capital of Germany in the “Normandy format” announced Putin aide Yuri Ushakov, and the next day the Ambassador of Russia in France Alexander Orlov said that the initiator of the talks was Merkel.

After that, the Kremlin didn’t confirm the participation of the Russian leader. Putin’s press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, 17 October declared that the meeting could not take place. “Whereas, that is still not clear have not been made, and work at the level of assistant to the President in the respective directions have not yet given positive results, chances are quite small,” he said.

“Putin demonstrates a rational approach. He agreed to the meeting only after Merkel and Hollande have programmirovanie will seek to put pressure on Kiev for the execution of the political part of Minsk-2”, – indirectly agreed with Peskov CEO close to the Kremlin Center for political conjuncture Alexei Chesnakov. “The skepticism of Putin to participate in the meetings in the “Normandy format” due to the lack of dynamics in position of the Ukrainian side in all four directions laid down in the Minsk agreements”, – says the analyst. “Why meet if there is nothing to discuss on the merits?”, he added. The expert believes that Putin agreed to the meeting largely because of the insistence of the German Chancellor who initiated it.

Putin agreed at a meeting in Berlin, the Director of the Ukrainian Institute of global strategies Vadim Karasev explained the lack of success of Russia in Syria and pressure from the Western States. Kiev, according to the expert, it is important to show to Western partners at least a semblance of willingness to talk with Moscow. Otherwise, the “Norman format” can be transformed into a trilateral meeting with Merkel, Hollande and Putin. This, in turn, can lead to the fact that Ukraine will be left alone in the confrontation with Russia, warns the analyst.

In August, the media interpreted the failure of Putin’s meeting in the “Normandy format” during the G20 summit, scheduled for 4-5 September, as principled opposition of Moscow to continue talks in this format. Then the tough rhetoric came after the incident in Crimea, in which two soldiers were killed. The Kremlin interpreted this as a diversion of the Ukrainian security services, while the official Kiev insists on his innocence.

Syrian background

Additional uncertainty in the possibility of the Berlin meeting had made the sudden cancellation of Putin’s visit to Paris on 11 October. The Russian President was to visit the French capital on 19 October. According to the official, the visit did not take place because of the program there were several activities associated with the opening in Paris of Russian cultural and spiritual center. Informally known another reason is that Hollande has publicly questioned the advisability of meeting with Putin because of Russia’s position on the Syrian issue, after which the visiting Russian President of the French capital became impossible.

The proximity in time of the meeting in Berlin with critical statements of the French leader about Russia’s role in Syria has allowed observers to assume that the Kremlin can “link” two crises – in Ukraine and in Syria. In favor of this version can be proved by the consent of Russia on 18 October – on the eve of the meeting in Berlin is to enter in Aleppo “silent mode” and to organize a two of a humanitarian corridor. In the Kremlin, the actions of the defense Ministry, called a “gesture of goodwill”. The bombing of Aleppo Russian aerospace forces and the Syrian air force has caused sharply negative reaction from Western countries, including France.

“Issues of Ukraine and Syria are linked, but this relationship may be positive for Russia from the point of view of combating terrorism and negative – in the form of charges in the humanitarian disaster of the West” – believes the Deputy head of the Department of post-Soviet countries RSUH Alexander Gushchin. In his words, active actions in Syria led to a strong reaction of the West, and “the Ukrainian leadership is trying to catch this trend and began to make harsh statements and to impose sanctions”.

Other scientists are sceptical about the ability to link events in Syria with attempts to resolve the situation in Ukraine. “Attempts by some “experts” to link the Syrian and Donbass tracks rather complicate the situation than simplify the peace process,” – said Chesnakov.

Minsk stumbling

Despite the apparent lack of progress following the meeting in Berlin, the experts believe that the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format is now no alternatives. “Norman format is the most optimal form of cooperation”, – said Karasev. According to him, the only possible other option – a bilateral Russian-Ukrainian negotiations, which under current conditions is unlikely. In the inevitability of the “Normandy format” I am confident and Gushchin.

Peskov did not answer the question, whether you discussed the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Putin and Poroshenko during the Berlin summit and whether the Russian leader is in her interest.

The head of the Ukrainian center of applied political studies Penta Volodymyr Fesenko has noticed that Moscow and Kiev are different conceptually perceive the Minsk agreement. “While for Russia the key is the political part, to Kiev first priorities are articles on security,” he said. In addition, Russia and Ukraine disagree on the vision for the future of DNR and LNR. “The Kremlin wants Ukraine, in fact, to take the contents of two separatist Republic, giving them a wide autonomy. Kiev seeks to regain control over these territories, not guaranteeing their special status,” – said Fesenko.