LIMA (Reuters) - Germany’s Foreign Minister warned Kiev, Moscow and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine on Saturday of the “high price” of violating a ceasefire agreement as fighting intensified hours before its start.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he did not expect such an intense surge in violence following Thursday’s accord and urged all parties to obey its terms, which go into effect at midnight.
“If we fail with these efforts now, everyone in the region ... will pay a high price,” Steinmeier said at a press conference in Lima, where he met with his Peruvian counterpart.
The ceasefire pact forged by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany followed 16 hours of negotiation and offered a glimmer of hope for an end to the conflict in Ukraine.
Breaking it would threaten European security, Steinmeier said, as well as “the possibility of cooperation in international institutions including the Security Council.”
Fighting continued in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, with separatists pressing government forces in the key town of Debaltseve and shelling killing at least one person in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
Steinmeier said his understanding was that neither side had gained ground and that what mattered now was a commitment to the ceasefire agreement.
“If it is going to be respected, we’re going to witness it tonight,” he said.
Steinmeier also condemned a shooting at a meeting in Copenhagen attended by Lars Vilks, an artist who has received death threats since publishing images of the Prophet Mohammad.
“We will not fold before this type of terrorism,” Steinmeier said. “We defend freedom and want to preserve it.”
Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Tom Heneghan