Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Friday that he felt "cautious optimism" following talks in Paris with the Russian, French and German leaders on reviving the peace process for eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a long-awaited summit in Paris. It was the first meeting since the leaders worked out a peace deal in Minsk in February.
That accord has been troubled, but there have been signs of progress in recent weeks, including a breakthrough agreement this week on withdrawing tanks and many weapons.
After the meeting, Poroshenko said his government would begin the pullback Saturday, according to Russian news agencies.
Putin's spokesman later hailed the start of the weapons withdrawal as a "positive development."
Local elections planned this month in areas under the control of Russian-backed separatists will be postponed by at least three months.
"We don't want elections to take place in eastern Ukraine that do not respect the Minsk deal," Hollande said. He said there was a need for "time to draw up a law, an electoral law that perfectly conforms" to international standards.
The announcement came after Poroshenko said his government would pass a bill granting a specific status to those regions. In return, Putin promised to have an envoy discuss the election issues with rebel leaders to get them to agree on the delay.
“We tackled contentious points one by one. The elections will be delayed, but this meeting is something positive,” Merkel said at a joint news conference with Hollande at the Elysée Palace. “The two parties held good discussions.”
The separatist rebels launched an uprising in March 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, seeking to similarly break away from Kyiv after a pro-European Union government took power there.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of covertly supporting the rebels with troops and weapons, a claim Moscow denies.
The rebels, who now seek greater autonomy within a united Ukraine, want to hold local elections on their own terms, which include barring all pro-Kyiv candidates and holding the polls on days other than those planned in the rest of Ukraine