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Cautious optimism Swiss negotiator hopeful after tough Ukraine talks

Tagliavini, centre, took part in negotiations on Ukraine in Minsk this week


Heidi Tagliavini, the Swiss diplomat tasked with helping to negotiate a peace plan for Ukraine, says she is “cautiously optimistic” that an agreement reached Thursday in Minsk will stem the conflict.

She described the agreement as a “complete package of measures” to put the terms of last September’s Minsk Protocol agreement into practice. That agreement included a 12-point plan involving a cease-fire, a neutral monitoring zone, early elections and a reconstruction programme, among other steps.

Tagliavini, who was appointed to represent to Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in peace negotiations, described long and difficult debates in Minsk that “achieved the maximum”. She found it particularly significant that it was primarily top leaders who participated in 16-hour negotiation sessions, which demanded patience and dedication. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukranian President Petro Poroschenko, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “took a lot upon themselves,” Tagliavini said.

The OSCE negotiator said that the current state of affairs between the end of negotiations and the beginning of the cease-fire on Sunday is the “most difficult moment”. Intense fighting continued in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

Despite her cautious optimism, Tagliavini also said “there is still much to do” , including creating working groups to deal with questions surrounding the implementation of the cease-fire, the removal of artillery, humanitarian aid and the organisation of local elections.

Tagliavini is a member of the OSCE contact group on Ukraine, which is made up of representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE. She assumed her key negotiating role during Switzerland’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2014. and agencies