German Chancellor Angela Merkel reined in expectations that the leaders of Russia and Ukraine will agree on peace terms this week, saying a breakthrough is unlikely.
A day after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Merkel went on German television in Berlin to back his peace plan and said time is running out for Europe to solve a parallel dispute over Russian natural-gas transit through Ukraine.
Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Merkel challenged during yesterday’s visit to do more to stem the fighting tearing apart Ukraine, plan to meet on Aug. 26 during trade talks in Minsk, Belarus. Germany has an obligation to help end the “very dangerous” confrontation, Merkel said.
“My talks in Kiev were aimed in part at preparing this meeting, which surely won’t produce the one big breakthrough in Minsk -- just to curb expectations,” she told ARD television today. “But you have to talk with each other if you want to find solutions. I’m firmly convinced that there’s only a political solution, in which the European Union and Germany want to and should help.”
Merkel’s government has stepped up German diplomacy as fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country has left more than 2,000 dead, driving relations between Russia and the EU to a post-Cold War low. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will take up concern about Russian encroachment in the Baltic nations, which gained independence after the Soviet Union’s collapse, at a summit in September, the chancellor said.
“The Baltic states are very concerned,” said Merkel, citing her visit to Latvia on Aug. 18. NATO “has to ready measures that ensure we can react quickly if needed.”
As Europe’s winter approaches, Merkel said that the clock was ticking on efforts to resolve the gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia. “I don’t see a red alert yet, but we are under time pressure to conclude the negotiations soon,” she said. EU-mediated talks resume on Aug. 29.
“We still have a number of weeks,” she said. “The EU is engaged and I’m hoping for solutions.”
In Kiev, Merkel said proposals for ending the conflict are “on the table” and Ukraine has already “come up with many initiatives.” While keeping the door open to partnership with Russia, she reiterated today that Ukraine’s territorial integrity and freedom of choice for its citizens to move closer to the EU are among the requirements for a solution.
“That’s also President Poroshenko’s plan,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Czuczka in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org