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Ukraine

No breakthrough in latest 'difficult' foreign minister talks on Ukraine

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia have failed to agree on a roadmap for the peace process in eastern Ukraine. Germany's Steinmeier said paying "lip service" to the conflict would not solve it.

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The latest meeting to discuss strategies to mitigate the Ukraine conflict yielded little progress, the four foreign ministers said on Tuesday from Belarus' capital, Minsk.

"It was once again very difficult today," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said following the four-hour meeting with his colleagues from France, Russia and Ukraine.

"Pure lip service will not be enough to solve this conflict," he said.

Noting small progress, Steinmeier said that troops would continue to be withdrawn from the front-line "hot spot" areas in eastern Ukraine. The Red Cross could help facilitate a significant exchange of prisoners by the end of the year, he added.

The foreign ministers, however, failed to agree on a roadmap for implementing the Minsk peace agreement that was signed in February 2015. All four countries agreed to continue discussions, despite the lack of visible results.

"There weren't any breakthroughs today. The Minsk agreements are stalled - we're not managing to agree on the sequence of steps," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters. "Work will continue."

Both Ukraine and Russia have fundamentally different opinions regarding how the roadmap to peace should look, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said.

There also appears to be no agreement in sight on holding elections in the Ukraine's Donbass region, as per the request of Russia and Moscow-backed separatists in the area.

Lavrov also pushed back on a Ukrainian proposal to allow armed OSCE monitors in the contested area. Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the mission during last month's meeting in Berlin.

Despite the stalled progress and a great deal of work still to be done, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday: "Even if the dialogue is difficult, it is not broken."

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed over 9,600 people since it began in April 2014.

rs/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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