5 Feb 2015

Ukraine: Merkel and Hollande to hold peace talks with Putin

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande launch a new diplomatic initiative in Ukraine, before holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday.

The coordinated trip by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande came as US Secretary of State John Kerry also flew to Kiev, although he had no plans to go to Moscow.

Washington has begun openly talking of arming Ukraine for the first time. His likely cabinet colleague, defense secretary nominee Ashton Carter, on Wednesday said that he favoured arming Ukraine’s forces.

Talks with Poroshenko

“Together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” Mr Hollande told a news conference. “We will make a new proposal to solve the conflict which will be based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Now we are in a war, and in a war that could be a total war. Francois Hollande

“For several days Angela Merkel and I have worked on a text … a text that can be acceptable to all,” Mr Hollande added.

He warned about risks of escalation in Ukraine: “Now we are in a war, and in a war that could be a total war.”

Ms Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement: “In view of the escalating violence in recent days, the chancellor and President Hollande are intensifying their efforts, which have been going on for months, for a peaceful settlement to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”

Mr Hollande and Miss Merkel said they would meet President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on Thursday, before flying to Moscow to hold talks with Russia President Putin on Friday.

Talks with Putin

The visit was also confirmed by the Kremlin on Friday. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies the leaders would discuss concrete steps to resolve the conflict.

“I can confirm that indeed tomorrow Putin, Merkel and Hollande will have talks. The leaders of the three states will discuss what specifically the countries can do to contribute to speedy end of the civil war in the southeast of Ukraine, which has escalated in recent days and resulted in many casualties,” Mr Peskov said.

NATO says Russia has sent weapons, funds and troops on the ground to assist the rebel advance, undermining the five-month-old ceasefire in eastern Ukraine where war has already killed more than 5,000 people.

Moscow denies involvement in fighting for territory the Kremlin now calls “New Russia”.