Political crisis in Ukraine prompts joint German, French visit

The French and German foreign ministers were on their way to Ukraine Monday after publishing a joint editorial saying the country was in urgent need of reforms and calling on politicians to "remain true to the spirit of Maidan."

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed the visit Friday, one day after Ukraine's pro-Western coalition lost its legislative majority in parliament, igniting fears of political instability as the country grapples to contain ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in its eastern regions.

France's foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called for Ukraine to continue with economic reforms and the fight against corruption in Monday's edition of German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"In return for our solidarity and support, we rely on the affirmation of political powers in Ukraine to continue the course of reforms," they wrote, underlining the need to boost competition and limit money's influence on politics.

They were scheduled to travel later in the day to Kiev.

Sources at the French Foreign Ministry called the visit "an opportunity to take stock with the Ukrainian authorities on the progress of reforms and the implementation of the Minsk accord."

Steinmeier said that "turbulence" in Ukrainian politics made it "high time" to speak with the country's key players.

The two ministers plan to conduct meetings with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the German Foreign Ministry said.

Recent party departures have left Poroshenko's Solidarity party and Yatsenyuk's People's Front as the only two parties in Ukraine's ruling coalition.

Recent surveys by US-based pollster Gallup have shown Poroshenko's popularity to be floundering.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, praised the progress made by Ukraine's pro-EU government, while adding that the work towards transforming the beleaguered country was far from over.

"It is also important ... to convince the citizens that the leaders of Ukraine are able to embrace the challenges of systemic transformation, as required by the people also who went to Maidan two years ago," Kocijancic said in Brussels.

The Maidan movement is named after the central square in Kiev - which translates as Independence Square - where protesters gathered in 2013 to demand the resignation of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and closer European integration. They led to the 2014 revolution.

Germany, France and Russia make up the so-called Normandie Format together with Ukraine. The four countries next meet on March 3 in Paris.

The diplomatic quartet has been working to implement the Minsk ceasefire agreement, which has so far proven ineffective in the restive east.

Last update: Mon, 22/02/2016 - 19:33

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