June 1, 2018 / 10:59 AM / 6 months ago

Germany to host first meeting in more than a year on Ukraine conflict

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has invited his counterparts from France, Russia and Ukraine for a meeting in Berlin on June 11 to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman said on Friday.

It will be the first meeting under the “Normandy format” negotiations since February 2017, and the issue of deploying a UN peacekeeping mission in the conflict zone will be on the agenda.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month that a meeting of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on ending the conflict could only take place after progress was made on a UN mission.

All sides back a UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, but they disagree on its mandate.

Germany and France want UN troops to be deployed in all areas controlled by Russia-backed rebels, including on the Ukraine-Russia border. Russia opposes this idea.

Speaking during a visit to the government-held port city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, Maas said he was not aware of discussion within the European Union on lifting sanctions imposed by the bloc on Russia over its backing of the rebels.

Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine have previously held talks in an effort to end the fighting that has killed more than 10,000 people despite a notional ceasefire.

The TASS news agency earlier on Friday reported that a meeting of the foreign ministers of the four countries would take place in June.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Polina Devitt in Moscow and and Sabine ; writing by Joseph Nasr and Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Alison Williams and Hugh Lawson

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