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Talks on Ukrainian Crisis in Minsk Push on Into Morning

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Leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France began much-anticipated talks on Wednesday, on a peace plan that could end the deadly 10-month conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The summit follows discussions between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande last week, as well as preparatory work by respective foreign ministers and a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine, reports.

Normandy four leaders finish Minsk talks on Ukraine crisis settlement, RIA Novosti reported.

French and German leaders may hold a short bilateral meeting after the talks in Minsk, a source close to the Normandy summit said.

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will attempt to reach a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine within 48 hours, DPA news agency reported Thursday, citing a source familiar with the reconciliation talks in Minsk.

According to media reports, the Minsk deal proposes ceasefire from February 14, pulling back artillery and creating a security zone.

Ukraine reconciliation document has been handed over to the Contact Group for review, a source close to the talks said.

"The document has been passed to the Contact Group for review and signatures," the source told RIA Novosti.

According to RIA Novosti, the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, have arrived in Minsk to hold Contact Group talks on Ukraine crisis settlement.

Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov arrived in Minsk for Contact Group meeting as well.

Western media have been invited inside the Independence Palace in Minsk, where the final document at the end of the so-called Normandy quartet summit on Ukrainian reconciliation may be signed Thursday, according to RIA Novosti.

Over the past 12 hours, reporters packed the Independence Palace halls awaiting results from the talks, but thus far to no avail.

The leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia have reached “huge progress” in talks during the talks on Ukraine crisis in the Belarusian capital of Minsk with 80 percent of the document, which has more than 10 points agreed, a source told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

“The final document has been agreed by 80 percent. This document has more than 10 points. After the leaders of the ‘Normandy Four’ sign it, it will be sent to the Contact Group for their signatures. There has been huge progress,” the source said.

The talks may continue for another five or six hours, the head of Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s administration stated.

"We've been working in teams for some seven hours. Now they are working in a four leaders format," Valeriy Chaly said. "Too early [to share] details. I think we've got another five to six hours of work."

Negotiations in the Normandy format on crisis reconciliation in Ukraine looked to push on into the night, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.

"The talks will probably continue into the morning," Karasin told journalists.

All current talks and consultations on Ukrainian crisis are likely to result in a document acceptable to all parties involved in the negotiations, Ukrainian Ambassador to Belarus Mikhail Ezhel said.

According to Russia's ambassador to Belarus, Alexander Surikov, Contact Group envoys are focusing on practical implementation of the Minsk agreements, including working out details and procedures involved in weapons withdrawal as well as ceasefire framework and datelines.

"The Contact Group is finalizing the document to be immediately submitted to [Normandy Four] leaders who will either approve it or reject it," Surikov told RIA Novosti.

Before the summit began, Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko and exchanged a few words, Rossiya-1 TV channel reported. Putin sat in front of Poroshenko, while Hollande and Merkel sat on a sofa between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked with his German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

The leaders were later joined by their respective foreign ministers.

Earlier it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, comprising the so-called Normandy quartet, had arrived in Minsk to hold talks on Ukrainian reconciliation.

The envoys of the self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego, are meeting separately with OSCE representative Heidi Tagliavini, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

February 12 2015, 12:25

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