Germany Announces Top-Level Ukraine Summit In Minsk
February 08, 2015
Officials say the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia will hold a summit in Minsk this week aimed at bringing fighting in eastern Ukraine to an end.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the plan shortly after what was described as an 'extensive' phone conversation between Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
There is hope the February 11 meeting will conclude with a fresh commitment to a September 2014 peace plan that has been repeatedly violated.
In a statement on his website, Poroshenko expressed confidence the Minsk summit will lead to a 'swift and unconditional cease-fire' between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russian rebels they are battling in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected 'important decisions' to emerge from the talks.
Putin, however, suggested the meeting was still tentative.
Speaking in Sochi during bilateral talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Putin said the summit would not be held if the four leaders fail to agree on a 'number of points' before then.
Expert-level consultations will be held in Berlin on February 9 to prepare for the Minsk talks.
The summit announcement comes as international officials exchanged heated words over Ukraine at a security conference in Munich.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europeans believe a lasting settlement to the Ukraine crisis can only be found by working together with Russia.
'This conflict still means that permanent security can only be established together with -- and not against -- Russia,' he said. 'However, this cannot be a unilateral recognition. It has to be clear to Moscow as well that there is only a good future for Russia with Europe, together with Europe -- and not against Europe.'
Steinmeier added that Lavrov's comments a day earlier -- in which he asserted that Russia's annexation of Crimea was in line with international law -- were 'not conducive to our discussion.'
Germany is also hoping to dissuade the United States from arming Ukraine. President Barack Obama is currently mulling a proposal to supply Kyiv with sophisticated defensive weaponry.
Speaking at the Munich conference on February 7, Merkel criticized the plan, saying 'the progress Ukraine needs cannot be achieved by more weapons.'
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on February 8 sought to fend off any suggestion of a transatlantic rift on Ukraine, saying 'there is no division' between the United States and the EU.
'We are working closely together. We all agree that this challenge will not end through military force. We are united in our diplomacy,' Kerry said. 'But the longer that it takes... the more we will be forced to raise the costs on Russia and its proxies.'
Pressure to resolve the crisis comes amid a mounting death toll in eastern Ukraine, where tens of thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire between federal troops and pro-Russian rebels.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported on February 8 that German intelligence sources have suggested the actual death toll in eastern Ukraine may be as high as 50,000 people.
The UN says the conflict has claimed at least 5,358 lives, although it has suggested the actual figure could be far higher.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|