April 30, 2020 / 1:53 PM / a month ago

Coronavirus no excuse to block peace monitoring in Eastern Ukraine: foreign ministers

FILE PHOTO: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 29, 2020. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - The coronavirus epidemic must not be used as an excuse to hinder the work of international observers monitoring the ceasefire in force in Eastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday.

He was speaking after a video conference of the foreign ministers of the four “Normandy Format” countries involved in attempts to mediate a peace in the East, where Moscow-backed rebels run statelets independent of Kiev’s control.

He had agreed with his counterparts from France, Ukraine and Russia that there needed to be more exchanges of prisoners between the warring parties, efforts to ensure retired people in the East could access their Ukrainian pensions and more crossing points to add to the five currently in place along the 500km of the contact line, he said.

“In recent times too many excuses have been found to hesitate,” he said of a faltering implementation of a ceasefire, calling for observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to be given unhindered access. “The health concerns in the pandemic must not be used as an excuse.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Madeline Chambers

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