December 22, 2017 / 7:33 PM / 3 months ago

Ukraine's Poroshenko vows to work for quick exchange of prisoners: Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that he would work to implement a rapid exchange of prisoners held on both sides of the line of conflict in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman for Merkel said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker following the EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev, Ukraine, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

Merkel spoke by telephone with Poroshenko on Friday, a day after she spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Merkel’s deputy spokesman Georg Streiter.

Merkel and Poroshenko welcomed a decision by the parties to recommit to a ceasefire agreement signed in 2015 ahead of the Christmas holiday, and both agreed it should lead to a longer-term improvement of the security situation in the region.

A Russian-backed separatist insurgency erupted in 2014 and bloodshed has continued despite the ceasefire. More than 10,000 people have been killed, with casualties reported on a near-daily basis.

Poroshenko and Merkel underscored the importance of an agreement by the parties to exchange prisoners, calling it “an important step toward implementation of the Minsk agreements,” Streiter said.

“President Poroshenko stressed that he would push to ensure that this exchange happened as soon as possible,” he added.

The two leaders also discussed the withdrawal of Russian officers from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination that plays an important role in supporting the observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

They agreed that the Russian officers should return to the center quickly, and said German and French experts could get involved in a mediating role in coming days.

Merkel also welcomed Poroshenko’s plan to submit a draft law to set up an independent anti-corruption court, the spokesman said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Ralph Boulton

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