Leaders to discuss 'last chance' Ukraine peace bid

Leaders to discuss 'last chance' Ukraine peace bid

KYIV - Agence France-Presse
Leaders to discuss last chance Ukraine peace bid

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds Russian passports to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine as he addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. REUTERS Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was working towards peace talks with the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine in Minsk on Feb. 11 but the four still need to agree on a “number of points” by then.

“We’ve agreed that we will try to organize a meeting in the same format between heads of state and government in Minsk,” Putin told Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko in televised remarks yesterday. “We will be aiming for Wednesday, if by that time we manage to agree on a number of points which we’ve been intensely discussing lately,” Putin said in the Black Sea town of Sochi following a phone call with the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine.

The Belarussian strongman for his part said he would do his best to organize Putin’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s Francois Hollande and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko. “I am aware of the situation. Petro Poroshenko called me a few minutes ago and also told me about this,” Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenko as saying.

Lukashenko said the summit in the Belarussian capital Minsk would take place Wednesday evening, saying he was keen to see peace return to “our common home.”       

“People in Donetsk, Donbass are not strangers and we in Belarus will do everything” to help them out. In a separate statement, the Kremlin confirmed that a separate lower-level meeting would take place in Berlin today.

US, EU ‘united on Kyiv’

At an international security conference in Munich on Feb. 7, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and its European allies are “united in our diplomacy” on Ukraine. He said the U.S. supports efforts by France and Germany to produce a new plan to end the conflict that is now raging in east Ukraine.

Kerry denied that there is a U.S.-Europe rift over how to respond to the crisis and how to deal with Russia’s role in it despite a debate over whether to arm the government in Kyiv. “There is no division, there is no split,” Kerry said. “I keep hearing people trying to create one. We are united, we are working closely together.”

His comments came amid reports of a deep trans-Atlantic rift over the Obama administration’s consideration of providing defensive weaponry to Kiyv. Germany and France oppose such a move, saying it could lead to an escalation and that they do not believe the conflict can be resolved militarily.

Russia, which is accused of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, has said the introduction of U.S.-supplied weaponry will have grave consequences.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, speaking alongside Kerry, reiterated that he considers delivering weapons “not just highly risky but counterproductive.”