‘Constructive’ Moscow Talks End With No Peace Accord

‘Constructive’ Moscow Talks End With No Peace Accord‘Constructive’ Moscow Talks End With No Peace Accord

The leaders of France and Germany flew out of Moscow after five hours of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, with little to announce to end fighting in Ukraine beyond a promise to keep talking, although the three leaders described talks on Friday as “constructive.”

President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel had held similar late talks the night before with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as part of a last-ditch push for a breakthrough before EU leaders consider new financial sanctions against Russia next week, Reuters said in a report.

Afterwards, Moscow and Berlin both described a commitment to work on a “possible joint document” on restoring a collapsed peace deal signed last September in Minsk, Belarus. The document would include ideas proposed by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, who would all speak in a conference call on Sunday.

In a sign of the tense atmosphere, the French and German leaders went straight into the Kremlin for the talks without the usual diplomatic niceties of a welcoming handshake for the cameras. They emerged only for a stiff photo opportunity.

On the ground, a brief truce was organized on Friday so trapped civilians could reach safety from Debaltseve, a government-held railway hub nearly encircled by rebel forces who have made it the target of their advance.

The urgent diplomacy comes as western anxiety over the conflict grows. More than 5,300 people have been killed since fighting began in April, according to a UN tally, and the bloodshed has markedly increased over the past two weeks.

  Last Ditch Attempt

The French leader said the peace initiative he and Merkel have come up with is probably the last ditch attempt to end the war in Ukraine.

“I think this is one of the last chances. That’s why we took this initiative,” Hollande said.

“If we don’t find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it’s called war,” he added.

Merkel also said Saturday she is uncertain whether a flurry of diplomacy aimed at resolving the crisis in Ukraine will succeed, and warned that there are no guarantees that any deal would stick.

She also underlined her opposition to the idea of supplying lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government. “I understand the debate but I believe that more weapons will not lead to the progress Ukraine needs. I really doubt that.”

However, a NATO’s top military commander said on Saturday that the West should not rule out sending weapons and other military equipment to help the Ukrainian army in its war against pro-Russian fighters.

Merkel offered no details of the proposals that have been thrashed out over recent days, which she plans to discuss in a phone call Sunday with Putin, Poroshenko and Hollande.

  Ukraine Conflict

Western countries accuse Putin of sending funds, heavy weapons and troops to back pro-Russian separatists. Moscow denies assisting the rebels.

Since launching their offensive, the rebels have made major advances and acted in response to heavy shelling by Ukrainian government forces. Kiev and its western allies want any new ceasefire to require the rebels to give up those new gains.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in a statement, “Peace in Europe depends on peace in Ukraine and for us to achieve that peace Ukraine must have the means to defend itself. Not in offensive operations, but in defense operations,” he said.

Ukraine wants “lethal” aid such as anti-tank weapons to help it fight the heavy battle tanks it says the rebels have received from Moscow, as well as “non-lethal” equipment like night vision goggles and radar to detect where artillery is fired from.

However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on Saturday Kiev has no plans of severing diplomatic or economic relations with Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

“Many are talking about a break in diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation. But no one is explaining how this would help us reach the goals that have been set,” Klimkin said in an interview.