Putin, Merkel, Hollande discuss Astana talks, Ukraine

Moscow, Jan 19 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande about steps being taken to organise the Syrian settlement talks due to start on January 23 in Astana.

“Putin told his colleagues about steps on implementing the Russian-Turkish-Iranian agreements on the ceasefire in Syria and on preparing the Astana meeting between Damascus and Syrian opposition representatives scheduled for January 23,” Sputnik news agency cited a statement by the Kremlin.

Moreover, Russian, German and French leaders discussed in a phone call on Wednesday additional efforts to deescalate tensions in eastern Ukraine stressing the need to ensure the strict implementation of Minsk peace agreements.

“The sides discussed the implementation of the Minsk peace accords, expressing disappointment with the current situation in the context of the Ukrainian crisis settlement,” the statement said.

“The leaders noted, in particular, the escalation of tensions along the separation line in Donbas, as well as lack of progress in the work of the Contact Group on Ukraine,” it said.

According to the document, Putin, Merkel and Hollande agreed to intensify efforts in the ‘Normandy Four’ format, including holding a number of joint events at various levels in the near future.