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Germany plans four-way meeting on Ukraine crisis

Tanks are seen near the government-held town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany hopes to hold a meeting with Russia, Ukraine and France on the Ukraine crisis at a gathering of G20 foreign ministers in Bonn next week, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

“We are conducting talks ... with our partners in Paris, Moscow, Kiev about the usefulness, political usefulness and logistical feasibility of such a meeting,” spokesman Martin Schaefer said.

He said that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel wanted to organise a meeting of the four foreign ministers soon to give new impetus to the implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence on separatists in eastern Ukraine to stop the violence there.

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have both blamed each other for the latest flare-up in a conflict that has killed 10,000 people since April 2014.

Schaefer downplayed growing controversy about an interview given by German ambassador Ernst Reichel to a Ukrainian publication in which he said that elections were possible in eastern Ukraine despite the Russian presence in the region and Kiev’s intent to “raise Ukrainian flags at each city council.”

He said Reichel’s comments did not mark a departure from the German government’s views or the Minsk peace process, which maps out a process for restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its full territory after a series of other steps, including elections.

Schaefer also said the German government deeply regretted an incident in which a Ukrainian lawmaker “smeared” a piece of the Berlin wall at the German embassy in Kiev in protest over the ambassador’s remarks, saying it was “inappropriate behaviour”.

He said Germany was the first country to recognise Ukraine after its independence and remained a steadfast supporter of Ukrainian reforms.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michelle Martin and Dominic Evans