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Monday 18 December 2017

Ukraine peace talks end in tension

A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a military vehicle near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine. (AP)
A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a military vehicle near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine. (AP)
Ukrainian soldiers at rest near Artemivsk in the east of the country (AP)

Talks about a fragile peace deal for Ukraine have ended in tension, with differences over who is at fault over continued violence despite a ceasefire.

The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Paris amid uncertainty that the accord will hold - in particular a promised withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line.

Ukraine delayed the pullout on Monday, blaming continuing attacks from separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the talks as difficult.

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin emerged grim-faced, saying they agreed on some "technical aspects" including more support for an OSCE monitoring mission - but didn't reach an agreement on condemning recent violence in the town of Debaltseve or who is at fault for continuing sporadic violence despite a ceasefire.

Under a peace agreement reached on February 12 by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, both sides must withdraw their heavy weapons between 15 to 45 miles to create a buffer zone.

Sergey Lavrov of Russia said the discussion focused on the implementation of the peace deal.

"The most important thing is to ensure the ceasefire," he said according to Russian news agencies.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said they want to extend the OSCE mandate. He said all four "remain determined to continue action in this format and do the utmost to ensure" that promises are kept.

Press Association

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