March 1, 2016 / 2:16 AM / 2 years ago

Germany says credibility of Minsk peace deal for eastern Ukraine at stake

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The credibility of the Minsk peace deal for eastern Ukraine will come under threat unless both sides in the conflict make faster progress in implementing the agreement, Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday.

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces gather on armoured vehicles on the roadside near the village of Vidrodzhennya outside Artemivsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Oleksandr Klymenko

Speaking at a news conference in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded that the readiness of the government in Kiev and pro-Russian separatists to move forward with Minsk was “very limited”.

“Implementation must continue. The credibility of the whole process rests on this,” Steinmeier said.

Kerry said “both sides need to perform”, and that Russia must ensure that the separatists do their part.

Kiev’s struggles to get an election law for eastern Ukraine through parliament and an increase in ceasefire violations in the region have raised fears that the deal, sealed one year ago in the Belarus capital, could collapse, sparking a new wave of fighting.

European countries have tied the removal of sanctions against Russia to the implementation of Minsk. Germany and its allies worry that if Ukraine does not implement its side of the agreement, pressure could rise to ease those sanctions when they expire in July.

Earlier on Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned the European Union against extending the sanctions automatically when they lapse, urging instead a “serious debate” on the matter.

Steinmeier said he hoped that a meeting of the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine scheduled to take place on Thursday in Paris would lead to progress on planned elections in eastern Ukraine.

“If elections take place, and everyone says this, then we need two things: first an election law and second security conditions which allow an election to be held,” he said. “I hope that we make a small step forward on Thursday.”

Reporting by Noah Barkin

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