Restarting the Normandy Format, 3 Years Later
16 September, 2019

The Normandy Format, a four-way meeting between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France, has been on pause since negotiations stalled in 2016. But the new Ukrainian government, led by president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wants to restart the talks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, speaking at the annual Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv, added that Normandy Format talks are very important for Ukraine, saying that “We do believe progress is possible, and that’s the only reason that we were going along with this very painful path of the Minsk agreements and Normandy Four.”

Support for the Normandy meeting isn’t just limited to Ukraine - Germany and France are also pushing for a restart of the talks. Sylvie Kauffmann, an editorial director at French daily Le Monde, gave her view to Hromadske during a recent conference.

“What we know from President Macron is that he wants to give new impetus to the Minsk process, in order to unblock this deadlock that we’ve been in for the past years,” said Kauffmann, adding that she’s not sure that the Russian side has the same desire to come back to the table. She also pointed out that the Russians precondition for restarting the Normandy format talks would be a signal from the Ukrainian side that “...progress can be made.”

But that progress is not entirely up to Ukrainians, according to US Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Volker emphasized that the US supports the Normandy format during a recent press briefing, and that he believes the previous deadlock had less to do with the meetings themselves. “The format is not the problem...the problem is Russia’s position expressed in those meetings,” the Special Representative said.

President Zelenskyy, speaking at a joint press conference with Slovak President Zuzana ńĆaputová, outlined the three main objectives of the Ukrainian side: first, a complete prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine, what is known as the ‘all-for-all’ format. Second, a timeframe for an end to hostility along the so-called contact line. And third, the withdrawal of all troops in the occupied territories in the Donbas before an election can be held.

A definite date for a new Normandy format meeting has yet to be announced, though Moscow has indicated that they may be willing to sit down as early as October, with Paris as a preliminary location.

/By Romeo Kokriatski