Germany says Russian and Ukrainian officials have agreed to hold another meeting "as soon as possible" to find a lasting solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The commitment is aimed at kick starting peace talks.
The consensus was reached during a four-way telephone conference among German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his counterparts in Russia, Ukraine and France, a German
Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
"There was agreement that a meeting of the contact group should take place as soon as possible," the spokesman said, without providing a possible date for the meeting, or saying at what diplomatic level it would take place.
The Ukraine contact group is made up of representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
During Friday's conference call, foreign ministers Steinmeier, Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Pavlo Klimkin of Ukraine and Laurent Fabius of France reportedly said they would continue to work together towards ending the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Latest bid to set up talks
For some time, Germany and France have been seeking to revive peace talks among Kyiv, Moscow and the pro-Russian separatists.
On Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said he planned to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Kazakhstan on January 15, but this has not yet been confirmed.
The last gathering of the Ukraine contact group was held on December 25 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and ended without a commitment to hold further talks.
A ceasefire agreement signed at a contact group meeting with the separatists in Minsk on September 5 has been repeatedly violated.
More than 4,600 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out between Kyiv soldiers and separatists in April 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine and several Western countries accuse Russia of supporting the rebels with military aid, a charge which Moscow has denied.
Russia decries 'Bandera' march
Meanwhile, Russia has expressed anger over a march of Ukrainian nationalists in Kyiv on Thursday. Thousands turned out to honor the anti-Soviet insurgent Stepan Bandera, who would have turned 106 on January 1.
Bandera attempted to establish a Ukrainian state independent of the Soviet Union during World War II, and remains a controversial figure in the country. Russia has labeled him a Nazi collaborator for fighting alongside invading German forces during the war.
nm/ipj (dpa, AFP)