ANTALYA, Turkey (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for a halt to fighting around the Ukrainian coastal town of Shyrokyne on Wednesday as NATO backed his demand that Russia fully implement a Ukraine ceasefire agreement.
Despite the February truce, shooting has continued around the coastal town of Shyrokyne, near the strategic port city of Mariupol. Kiev fears separatists may try to seize the port to help cement a long-term hold on eastern districts of Ukraine.
Russia denies providing any troops or arms to support rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 6,100 people, and accuses Kiev of violating the ceasefire.
Kerry flew in to the Turkish seaside resort of Antalya to brief NATO foreign ministers on his eight hours of talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Those talks offered no sign of concrete progress to end the crisis over a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has chilled relations between Russia and the West.
“There was strong agreement among all of the NATO members that this is a critical moment for action by Russia and by the separatists to live up to the Minsk agreement,” Kerry said, referring to a ceasefire accord that has been regularly broken.
“And that it is critical to be able to get the OSCE into areas of conflict. It is important to end the conflict in those areas, particularly in Shyrokyne, (they) need to try to come to an agreement on a ceasefire. We need to see the full implementation of Minsk,” he told reporters before heading back to Washington to attend a U.S. summit with Gulf states.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the ceasefire in Ukraine was “ever more fragile”.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been deeply involved in efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, was more upbeat.
“Although the ceasefire is still fragile in two places and being constantly violated, we have finally seen progress in the last couple of days as working groups have been installed where representatives of the Kiev government and the Donbass region will talk about humanitarian aid, economic development, the political process and the security situation,” he told reporters.
Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Sabine Siebold