The coordinated trip by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande to see Russia’s Vladimir Putin followed five hours of late-night talks with Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv, reuters.com reports.
Asked by reporters in Paris on Friday how the talks went, Hollande said: “It’s the first step.” Merkel, back in Berlin, said it was unclear whether the meeting in Moscow would secure a ceasefire and whether there would be further talks.
Their initiative follows fierce fighting and territorial gains in eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists since a peace blueprint was agreed in Belarus in September. The Ukrainian military reported that two more soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours in the east, with 26 wounded.
The German, French and Ukrainian leaders had called for a quick ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign forces from Ukraine, the pull-back of heavy weapons and equipment, the closure of the border and the release of all prisoners, the statement on Poroshenko‘s website said.
Though details of the peace deal were under wraps, much might depend on whether Ukraine is being pressed to acknowledge existing front lines as the new negotiating reality – and whether Kyiv would accept this.
One idea was that a new attempt at a ceasefire should take in the current front lines, which reflect rebel gains, without Kyiv having to give up its claim to these areas as part of the Ukrainian state.
The growing military pressure has shaken the Ukrainian economy and driven a debate over the possibility of the United States providing Kyiv’s hard-pressed army with arms.
Speaking after meeting Poroshenko in Kiev on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington supported diplomacy, but would “not close our eyes” to Russian tanks and troops crossing the border. U.S. President Barack Obama will decide soon whether to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to fight the separatists, Kerry said.
www.belsat.eu/en, following Reuters