France says Russia refused to hold ministerial meeting on Ukraine

·2-min read

PARIS (Reuters) - France's foreign ministry on Tuesday said Russia had refused to accept a ministerial meeting with France, Ukraine, Germany to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine and denied that it had failed to respond to proposals made by Moscow.

"It's wrong," foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said in response to Russian assertions that neither Paris or Berlin had responded to Russian proposals on a draft statement for such a meeting.

"France and Germany have responded to Russia's proposals. They proposed holding a ministerial meeting in the Normandy format which was refused by the Russian foreign minister."

Tass news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Saturday as saying Paris and Berlin had not responded to Russia's proposal to discuss a final document before the meeting in the so-called Normandy format.

Zakharova also said on social media on Tuesday that Russia was not trying to slow down the preparation for the Normandy meeting but "rather does not want to take part in an empty staged event".

The German government said on Oct. 11 that after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had phone calls with the presidents of Ukraine and Russia to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, all sides had agreed their foreign ministers should meet.

Echoing Paris' comments, a German foreign ministry source said Moscow was engaging in "obstructionism" and setting unacceptable preconditions for a meeting.

"Russia is trying to change its own role from that of a party to the conflict to that of a neutral mediator. This is an old position, but one that is not acceptable to Ukraine, Germany or France", a source in the German foreign office said.

Ukraine's foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Over 14,000 people have been killed in the more than five-year conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

(Reporting by John Irish, Andrea Rinke in Berlin and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alison Williams)

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