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World leaders review Ukraine's fragile peace

The leaders of the four nations most closely involved with the truce in eastern Ukraine have held fresh talks on the violence that has not yet left the region. Kyiv says Russia has offered to send a peacekeeping force.

The leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia discussed the delicate truce in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions via telephone on Thursday, Berlin confirmed.

"The partners were in agreement over the need to stabilize the still fragile ceasefire in east Ukraine as well as to continue the withdrawal of heavy weapons," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement.

Seibert added that the leaders wanted to intensify the political solution to the conflict by setting up working groups with Ukrainian and Russian governments as well as the pro-Russian separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who is overseeing the ceasefire and withdrawal of weapons.

According to French news agency AFP, the Ukrainian presidency also announced Thursday that the Kremlin had also offered to send a peacekeeping force to the conflict zone.

"In the context of the discussion of ways towards a peaceful resolution (of the conflict), President Putin has accepted the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping contingent to the Donbass region," read the statement from the office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Neither Berlin nor Paris made mention of peacekeepers, however. French leader Francois Hollande's spokesman only said that the group had only "considered areas for improvement."

Despite the peace agreement signed between the Ukrainian government and the rebels in Minsk in February, European observers say both sides are still exchanging fire. The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people in the past year and displaced a million, according United Nations figures.

es/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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