Talks on Ukraine produce no visible results
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MINSK, Belarus — A meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany intended to shore up a shaky peace process in eastern Ukraine ended Tuesday without any visible progress.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after the talks that "there were no breakthroughs," adding that sharp disagreements on security and other issues remain.
The ministers' talks follow last month's meeting of the four nations' leaders, who agreed to work out a "road map" on implementing the February 2015 Minsk agreement sponsored by France and Germany. The deal has helped reduce fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists, but clashes have continued and the hoped-for political settlement has stalled.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the lack of progress in settling the conflict that has killed more than 9,600 since April 2014.
The Minsk deal envisaged that Ukraine regains control of the rebellious region's border with Russia after granting a special status, holding local elections there and offering amnesty to the rebels.
That provision of the Minsk deal has drawn strong criticism from Ukrainian nationalists, and President Petro Poroshenko has been reluctant to push it through parliament, fearing public anger.
Ukraine has accused Russia of failing to withdraw its troops and weapons from the east, but Moscow has denied having any presence there. The Kremlin, in turn, has argued that Ukraine has failed to meet its end of the Minsk deal by not providing autonomy for the eastern regions and calling elections there.
Lavrov on Tuesday pointed at the lack of progress on political reform, while his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin again accused Moscow of failing to withdraw its troops from the east. "There is no accord on all key aspects of the road map," Klimkin said.
While Poroshenko said last month that an agreement was reached on the deployment of an armed police mission in the areas held by pro-Russian separatists, Lavrov told reporters Tuesday that the issue wasn't on the agenda. "No one is even thinking about it," he said.