France will host a four-way summit in Paris on December 9 seeking to end the conflict in Ukraine, which will see Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky meet face-to-face for the first time, the French presidency said Friday.
They will join French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the meeting aimed at resolving the conflict in the east of Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have declared breakaway regions, the Elysee Palace said.
Macron, who has been spearheading the drive for peace in Ukraine, had hoped to host the summit in September but it was held up by numerous obstacles that highlighted the difficulty of resolving the conflict.
The Elysee said there had been “major progress” recently in talks between the sides, which had allowed troops to pull back from some key conflict areas.
The presidency said the meeting “will allow the opening of a new series of steps to put in place the Minsk agreements”, agreed in 2014 and 2015 that sought to end the conflict, but has yet to be properly implemented.
The Ukrainian army and Moscow-backed separatists had on Saturday launched the last phase of a troop pullback seen as a precondition for the summit to take place.
The summit would attempt to end a conflict which saw pro-Moscow separatists declare unrecognised breakaway statelets in the Ukrainian eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and has left more than 13,000 dead.
Macron, who held a lengthy meeting at his summer residence with Putin in August, courted controversy in recent months by pressing for dialogue with Russia.
In an interview with The Economist last week, he said that “if we want to build peace in Europe, to rebuild European strategic autonomy, we need to reconsider our position with Russia.”
The conflict in the east of Ukraine broke out after Russia”s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which plunged Moscow”s relations with the West into a deep freeze.