The Big Picture: Paris peace talks to end Russia-Ukraine conflict

Relations between Ukraine and Russia only deteriorated after the Crimea Crisis. Ukraine being the focal point of Russian aggression for more than a century hopes for peace.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians had their ray of hope to build the Ukrainian identity, for which they’re struggling for centuries. However, a fragment can be seen deep-rooted inside Ukrainian society. between, the Southeastern Donbas region of Ukraine and rest of the country. The Southeastern Region, including Crimea after its detachment from the Soviet Union, carries the pro-Russian sentiments.

The Sea of Azov and Crimea on Map/ Google map

The aftermath of the Crimean crisis, Eastern half of Ukraine is still facing militancy and separatism, which has ultimately cost to the civilians. Other than losing thousands of lives and displacement, maritime businesses like fishing too have suffered the most on the Ukranian side.

The Sea of Azov, which touches the shores of both Russia and Ukraine, became a hotspot for the tensions between the two. On one side where the Russian citizens are continuing their maritime businesses, Ukrainians haven’t met the same fate. According to the reports, authorities on the Ukranian side has limited the fishing in the Sea of Azov, causing anger among the citizens who are already tilted toward Russia. The same story is for entire Donbas region, where the pro-Russian separatist forces accuse the Ukranian Government’s negligence of the region.

Ukraine Peace Summit

Ukraine’s President – Volodymyr Zelensky

Over five years, the death toll has reached over 13,000 people and several other thousand injuries in the clash between pro-Russian separatists and Ukranian Forces. Ukraine’s eastern half is facing its worst days since World War II.

Leaders from France and Germany have invited both Putin and newly-elected Zelensky to Paris in a Normandy format talk to seal a ceasefire-deal and prisoners swap, where they will try to solve many questions intending to change the fate of Russia-Europe relations and of course, Kyiv’s relations with both Russia and Europe.

Zelensky who has been elected with a landslide victory will be walking on a double-edged sword, where on one side he will be meeting the fury of Ukrainians who are completely against kneeling down to Russians and face humiliation and on the other the challenge is to negotiate with Russia to put an end to the on-going civil war.

However, according to the reports, there are fewer chances of any solution from this Summit, as Ukranian government which is backed by the E-3 and the US, is politically constrained and Russian government under Putin will unlikely bend to the demands by the West.

The report published in Reuters quotes a former senior Russian diplomat, Vladimir Frolov, who describes the positions as irreconcilable and sees very little chances of a breakthrough in this summit.

Another Flop Show?

French President Emmanuel Macron with German Chancellor Angela Merkel/ Image: Bloomberg

Earlier, Minsk agreement was signed between the two countries in the hope to seal a ceasefire deal to stop the civil war in the Donbas region, however, it went violated and separatist forces and Ukrainian government both turned more violent to counter each other, which again comes to the civilians paying the price in form of death tolls.

After announcing the Peace Summit in Paris. The French government said participants would focus on ‘elaborating a new sequence of implementation of the Minsk agreements’.

It is not clear if Paris is hoping too low for the outcomes and making it just another formal talks putting all other interests on the table. Especially, when the Russian president already said, “attempts to reconsider the Minsk agreements or change the special status of the Donbas republics are unacceptable” and it is already hinted by the Ukrainian side to pull-out from the Minsk Agreement which includes the adoption of Ukranian law to order Local Self-Governance in Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Other interests on the table

Russian President Vladimir Putin/ Image: Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

After several years of the formation of NATO, today is the worst phase it is undergoing, with a major European Ally – France calling NATO a brain dead alliance. Macron has already sought a reset with Moscow and the same can be predicted with the United States, with Donald Trump as a President. The U.S. has shifted its major focus to China, giving a broad scope for Kremlin to make marginal changes in the European attitude towards Russia.

Post-Trump era, NATO has witnessed factions within. On the name of Trade War, Iran Nuclear Deal, Turkey or Belt and Road, everyone is carrying their own interests.

For example, today Russia through its vast gas supply reaching all the corners of Europe, including Turkey and Norway except Ukraine, as the Ukranian government halted its purchase from Gazprom citing cheaper prices elsewhere. Russia will be in condition for negotiation on the gas-supply.

Whereas, Germany and France are forced to act with the tough sanction measures after the Crimean annexation by Russia. In fact, Germany’s political spectrum is facing a huge divide over Russia. Communist East German parties calling for an end to hefty sanctions against Russia and the Centrist-right parties calls to continue the sanctions.

Conclusion

It all depends on the December 9 Normandy format meeting where Ukranian President Zelensky will face Russian President Putin for the first time. It will be interesting to observe whose interests tops the agenda and where the diplomacy makes room for itself.

Another invisible stakeholder is the United States in this Summit, right now, whose own domestic issues revolving around the Ukraine and Russia, leading to the impeachment hearing of the President of the United States

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

Amit Sinha

Amit Sinha is the Consulting Editor - Mediterranean Desk at The Kootneeti. He previously has worked on the assignments by the United Nations. He can be reached at amit.2121@hotmail.com || Twitter: @Amitsinh_

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  1. 15th February 2020

    […] Normandy Format Talks in December 2019 […]

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