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Kazakhstan Offered to Host Meeting     11/12 07:33

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Kazakhstan's ex-president said Tuesday he offered to host the 
leaders of Russia and Ukraine for talks on settling the conflict in eastern 
Ukraine, but the Kremlin was noncommittal about such an encounter.

   The fighting between Russia-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops in 
Ukraine's industrial east has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014. A 2015 
deal brokered by France and Germany has helped reduce the scale of hostilities, 
but political settlement has stalled.

   Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down as Kazakhstan's president earlier 
this year but continues to wield considerable influence, said that he suggested 
that the leaders of Russia and Ukraine meet in his country. He said he had 
spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who reacted positively. 
Nazarbayev noted that he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin that 
Zelenskiy is ready for a meeting, but he didn't say how Putin reacted.

   Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia is grateful to Nazarbayev 
for his mediation efforts but believes that such talks need to be thoroughly 
prepared and produce concrete results.

   "President Putin doesn't reject any meetings, but he believes that 
preparatory work needs to be completed," Peskov said in a conference call with 

   Zelenskiy, who was elected in a landslide in April on promises to end the 
fighting in the east, has pushed for talks about ending the conflict.

   Last month, Ukraine, Russia and the separatists signed a tentative agreement 
on guidelines for a local election in the east and a pullback of troops to pave 
the way for a much-anticipated four-way summit with Russia, Germany and France.

   On Monday, Ukraine and the rebels said they have completed the planned 
disengagement of their forces in the east, a move seen as a key condition for 
holding the summit.

   Peskov hailed the pullback but noted that more work needs to be done before 
the leaders could meet. He said presidential aides from the four countries have 
been working on draft documents to be signed by the leaders.

   The 2015 agreement sponsored by France and Germany that was signed in the 
Belarusian capital, Minsk, envisaged broad autonomy for the separatist regions 
in eastern Ukraine and an amnesty for the rebels --- provisions that were never 
implemented because they were resented by many in Ukraine. Zelenskiy's latest 
push for the disengagement of forces in the east has angered Ukrainian 
far-right activists who denounced it as a capitulation to Moscow.

   German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday that Zelenskiy's election 
helped revive peace efforts, voicing hope that the four-way summit in the 
so-called Normandy format could be held soon.

   "We are working hard to take advantage of the momentum we have gained 
through the election of President Zelenskiy," Maas said on the sidelines of a 
peace forum in Paris.

   "I am confident that even in the not-too-distant future we will meet in the 
Normandy format, within the framework of a summit, to discuss further 
developments and, above all, to reach agreements with the aim of finally 
achieving peace in eastern Ukraine."


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