French President Francois Hollande has called for a meeting with his German, Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to ensure the peace agreement for eastern Ukraine is carried out, with an eye to lifting Western sanctions against Moscow.
In a wide-ranging press conference in Paris on Monday, Hollande said he would propose that a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko be held in Paris before the start of this year's United Nations General Assembly, which opens on September 15.
The French president said the purpose of the meeting would be to see where the peace deal signed between representatives of Ukraine's government and Russia-backed rebels in Minsk, Belarus in February stands and "carry it through successfully."
He said the peace process had "moved forward" in the last few weeks and that the cease-fire agreed to in Minsk has "almost been respected."
Hollande said if local elections are held in Ukraine, and reforms granting more autonomy to separatist areas in the east are implemented, he will ask that the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine be lifted.
Last Wednesday, the European Union agreed to extend sanctions against Russian companies and individuals, as well as Ukrainian separatists, for another six months.
In a new attempt to end the violence in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian government and representatives of Moscow-backed separatists pledged to implement the cease-fire agreement starting September 1.
President Poroshenko said Saturday that the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine had been respected for a week, but several servicemen and civilians reportedly died from land mine explosions. The separatists reported that a civilian was killed near Donetsk by Ukrainian army fire.
In an interview with VOA on Friday, Poroshenko said Russia should be stripped of its veto power in the United Nations Security Council because of its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier last week, Ukraine's National Security Council approved a new military doctrine that declares Russia a military opponent and called for Ukraine to pursue NATO membership.