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France to host Dec. 9 'Normandy' summit in push for east Ukraine peace

PARIS (Reuters) - The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet in Paris on Dec. 9 in an attempt to advance efforts for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the French presidency said on Friday.

It will be the first time the leaders have met together in more than three years and comes after a breakthrough at talks between Russia and Ukraine last month.

“The summit will be held following major progress since the summer in negotiations for a settlement in the east Ukraine conflict, progress which in particular allowed the removal of troops from several areas on the frontline,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Over 13,000 people have been killed in the more than five-year-old conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, which prompted Western sanctions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy won a landslide election victory in April promising to end the simmering conflict.

Zelenskiy’s office put out a separate statement on Friday, saying Macron had assured Ukraine of his support and that the Dec. 9 date had been agreed by all parties. The Kremlin has not commented so far.

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Envoys from Moscow and Kiev agreed at talks in early October on an election schedule for the separatist region and on legislation giving it special status.

Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels also began withdrawing from a village in the disputed Donbass region on Saturday, helping pave the way for the so-called Normandy summit, which takes its name from a meeting of the four nations’ leaders in the northwestern French region in 2014.

“The French President stressed that Ukraine had fulfilled all necessary conditions for the Normandy format summit to take place,” the statement said.

“Emmanuel Macron emphasized that Ukraine could further count on France’s support in all matters,” it added.

Reporting by John Irish and Michel Rose in Paris and Matthias Williams in Kiev; Editing by Richard Lough and Alex Richardson