KIEV Germany's foreign minister said a recent attempt at a ceasefire between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists offers a "sliver of hope" and that he sees scope for further moves towards a lasting peace next week.
Visiting Kiev with his French counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that, with Moscow's agreement, Russian-backed separatists will enforce a fresh truce beginning at midnight, which Ukraine had also agreed to abide by.
The two sides had earlier agreed to observe a ceasefire to coincide with the start of the school year on Sept. 1, which decreased the level of hostilities but failed to stop all fighting.
"We are again at a crossroads," Steinmeier told a briefing. "We see a small sliver of hope in the back-to-school ceasefire ... but it is not enough."
France and Germany helped broker the 18-month-old Minsk peace agreement, but many of its key points, such as holding regional elections and returning control of Ukraine's border with Russia to Kiev, have long been stalled.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the issue is that there was no agreement with Russia over the sequence for implementing the peace terms.
"We understand that to implement the Minsk agreements, to force Russia to implement them, we need a clear idea of the sequence of steps and guarantees of their implementation from Russia," he said at the briefing.
Moscow denies accusations from Ukraine and NATO that it helps pro-Russian separatists with troops and arms in support of a rebellion in which over 9,500 people have been killed since spring 2014.
Speaking at the same briefing, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said an agreement between Ukrainian troops and separatist rebels to withdraw troops in three areas of eastern Ukraine could be signed next week.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Matthias Williams and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Catherine Evans)