The Normandy Quarter is relaunched on Wednesday, with four-party negotiations between France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia.
However, the Normandy format — named after the French region where the heads of state of Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France first met in 2014 — is no longer a forum that one can expect important decisions will be made, least of all on Ukraine.
Expectations from the meeting tomorrow are played down, especially as the relations between Paris, Berlin, and Moscow have become increasingly tense over Syria.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are not likely to go beyond an exploratory meeting.
France is expected to explicitly address developments in Syria, underscoring a combative mood between Paris and Moscow over the last two weeks. Vladimir Putin and President Hollande canceled a bilateral meeting last week after France accused Russia of “war crimes” in Syria.
The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, have made clear the Franco-German axis will pressure Moscow on Syria.
Echoing President Poroshenko, the German Chancellor to the press on Tuesday she expects “no wonders.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the President would attend the meeting to “compare notes” on the implementation of the Minsk accord.
While it is clear that Ukraine will not take precedence over Syria, Ayrault said the meeting could yield a date for elections in the Donbass, eastern Ukraine, and some reflection over the military de-escalation.
Ayrault also made clear that there will be no confrontation with Russia over Moscow’s failure to observe the February 2015 ceasefire agreement. “There is no plan B to the Minsk accords,” Ayrault said.