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Germany open to hosting four-way Ukraine summit

Chancellor Merkel has said Berlin is open to hosting talks on the Ukraine but that a firm decision had yet to be reached. It would mark Putin's first visit to Germany since fighting in Ukraine broke out in early 2014.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that she would be open to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Berlin summit on the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. 

Some reports suggest that Berlin could host a Normandy format (with leaders of Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine) summit as soon as next week.

However, Merkel said that a decision on the summit had yet to be made. "As far as next week is concerned, I can't say yet because I first have to wait for news from the ongoing talks at working level," the chancellor told reporters in Berlin.

"We are keeping this open, but we haven't reached a decision yet," she added.

Re-engaging with Russia

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier on Friday that re-engaging with Russia was key to ending the conflict between military forces and Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine. "Regardless of our assessment on what is happening in Aleppo, it is necessary that we deal with Russia and include Russia," he said.

Seibert emphasized the importance of holding fresh talks and reinstating the Minsk peace deal ratified by the Normandy nations last year. "If the conditions for progress are there, then that moment could be at a summit here in Berlin."

Ukraine Krise (picture alliance/dpa/A. Ermochenko)

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk in July 2015

Telephone talks

On Wednesday, Merkel participated in a lengthy phone conversation with Putin and French President Francois Hollande. Russian and French officials subsequently expressed hope that Ukraine talks would resume. Germany, however, played down the possibility, saying that more work was needed to establish the prerequisites ahead of such a summit.

However, following positive working-level talks between the Normandy countries in Minsk this week, the German government signaled that it would be prepared to host high-level talks in Berlin.

This would be Putin's first state visit to Germany since clashes in eastern Ukraine broke out in early 2014. Merkel met with Putin in Moscow in May last year for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Failed ceasefires

Two ceasefire deals signed by the leaders of Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine have largely failed. Merkel has insisted that all sides must abide by the second peace agreement reached in Minsk in last year.

Despite the promise of talks between European leaders and Putin, a number of EU governments are calling for fresh sanctions to be imposed on Moscow for its intervention in the Syrian civil war. Paris has echoed calls from Washington, accusing Russia of war crimes for its lengthy airstrike campaign over the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

dm/jm (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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