German foreign minister urges Russia, Ukraine to revive peace talks

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas called for top diplomats from Russia and Ukraine to meet for a renewed push to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday.

"There should not be another victim in this war," Heiko Maas said after talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. "This must be stopped," he continued.

Read more: Ukraine ready for peace, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tells DW

The conflict, in which more than 13,000 people have been killed, has been going on for five years between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military near the Russian border.

Read more: Russia backs fresh talks on eastern Ukraine conflict

Maas described the stalled peace effort which was initially brokered in 2015 by Germany and France as having gained momentum recently thanks to a push for renewed talks with Russia by Ukraine's newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy, who took office in May of this year, has been pulling for reigniting peace talks with Russia at a new potential summit in Minsk, to be brokered by Germany and France.

Maas had previously said he expected the renewed hope for an end to the conflict to be central to his talks with Lavrov.

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"There is, in terms of the ceasefire, separation of forces and implementation of the Minsk agreement, finally again hope for a light at the end of the tunnel," Maas said, in reference to a 2015 peace deal signed in Belarus.

Germany and France as peace brokers

French President Emmanuel Macron has been supportive of the initiative duringtalks with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. Macron said he wanted to attend a summit with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Germany — the so-called Normandy format — soon to try and resolve the conflict.

"There is a real opportunity to put an end to the conflict that has been going on for five years," he told reporters, saying there had been "real changes" since Zelenskiy came to office.

Putin, in turn, said there were "grounds for cautious optimism" regarding chances of peace in eastern Ukraine.

During his press conference with Lavrov, Maas called for the release of the Ukrainian sailors who were detained by Russia near the Kerch Strait in November 2018, saying that would be "substantial progress."

mmc/se (dpa, AFP)