Leaders of Russia, Ukraine to meet to discuss conflict

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French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he waits for EU Council President-elect Charles Michel at the Elysee Palace Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in Paris. (Photo: AP)

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France will meet in Paris on Dec. 9 to try to seek a settlement for the five-year conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed 13,000 people.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office announced the meeting Friday after months of diplomatic efforts to get all sides to agree on new talks.

Macron’s office said it’s time for a meeting because of “major advances” in negotiations since this summer, including troop withdrawals and prisoner exchanges.

Over the past several weeks, Ukrainian and rebel forces have pulled back from three frontline points. In September, Russia and Ukraine each released 35 of the others’ nationals who had been imprisoned, including high-profile Ukrainian sailors who had been seized by Russia.

Ukraine and the separatists last month signed a tentative agreement on holding elections in the rebel-held areas, a move that prompted substantial criticism among Ukrainians who saw the move as capitulation to Russia.

The leaders of the four countries first met in Normandy in 2014, and their group is dubbed the “Normandy Format.” They last met in this format in 2016, although discussions have continued at a lower level.

Macron’s office says that the meeting will allow implementation of the Minsk accords, the 2015 agreement sponsored by France and Germany that envisages broad autonomy for the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and an amnesty for the rebels.

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on Friday about the summit’s announcement.