Leaders agree to create 'road map' for Ukraine peace process
President of Russia Vladimir Putin waves after he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the chancellery in Berlin, on Oct. 19, 2016. (Markus Schreiber / AP)
Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, October 19, 2016 8:05AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 19, 2016 8:01PM EDT
BERLIN -- The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France agreed Wednesday on a 'road map' aimed at reviving the stalled peace process in eastern Ukraine, though details of the plan still need to be worked out by the countries' foreign ministers over the coming month.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had invited the three presidents to Berlin for the first four-way talks in over a year, insisting that while major progress was unlikely it was important for talks to continue.
"I'm convinced it was right to reopen the channel of talks at this level again," Merkel said after the talks. She conceded that the four leaders "didn't achieve miracles" but that maintained that the talks were necessary "in order not to lose momentum."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the four had agreed that the road map should be adopted by the end of November. He was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying it would include all security issues including restoration of Ukraine's control of its entire border with Russia.
The road map is aimed at being a mechanism to implement the so-called Minsk Agreement of February 2015 on ending the conflict, in which more than 9,600 people have been killed.
Poroshenko also said the talks had reached an agreement on the deployment of an armed police mission in separatist eastern Ukraine.
But Merkel told reporters that such a step would first require Ukraine to pass laws for local elections in the disputed territory, something Kyiv hasn't yet done.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in May that the group would consider sending such a mission to help conduct elections in the separatist regions of the east.
Merkel, Poroshenko, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Francois Hollande of France have met sporadically to discuss eastern Ukraine. Wednesday's meeting was the first time the four have met in more than a year.
The 2015 Minsk agreement brokered by France and Germany has helped end large-scale battles between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists, but clashes have continued and efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled.
The decision to hold the meeting in Berlin follows a flurry of telephone diplomacy over the past week.
Merkel told reporters afterward that the issue of Syria had also been discussed with Russia.
Merkel and Hollande have been sharply critical of Russia's support for Assad's forces, with Merkel suggesting Tuesday that Moscow was partly responsible for atrocities, citing "Syrian and Russian airstrikes on helpless people, hospitals and doctors."
Merkel said the possibility of imposing sanctions against Russia for its actions in Syria remained on the table.
Outside Merkel's chancellery, hundreds of demonstrators staged competing rallies as the four leaders arrived.
A group of about 30 people waving Russian and Soviet flags chanted "Thank you Putin," while larger groups of Ukrainian and Syrian protesters demonstrated against the Russian president.
"We're here to protest against the war in Ukraine," said Tanja Letaiv, adding that Ukrainians were sympathetic to the Syrian cause.
Loay al-Hamedi, a Syrian living in Germany, expressed anguish at Russia's backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown against anti-government groups.
Vladimir Isachenkov and James Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.