German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to reporters in her annual summer press conference. The session was dominated by the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine and Israel's ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Chancellor Merkel began by expressing her condolences to the families of the almost 300 people who lost their lives in the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which came down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
"Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims," the chancellor said, adding that she had earlier spoken via telephone with Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte to express her condolences on behalf of her government and the German people. More than 170 of the victims of the crash were Dutch nationals.
The chancellor also called for an immediate halt to the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
"What is important now is for an independent investigation to take place as soon as possible," Merkel said. "For that, a ceasefire is needed, and then it is of course crucial for those responsible to be brought to justice."
She also noted that there was a good deal of evidence to indicate that the plane had not simply crashed, but had been shot down. She also called on the Kremlin to help bring an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
"Events have shown there must be a political solution, and here it's all about Russia's responsibility for what is happening in Ukraine right now," she said.
"I can see no other way than to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin," she added. "There are difficulties in the partnership, which we have to overcome."
Israel's right to self defense
The chancellor was also asked several questions about the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, in which more than 200 people have been killed over the past 11 days.
Merkel said it had become clear that the Islamist militant group Hamas was targeting the Jewish state with a "new quality" of weaponry and that any country that is attacked in such a manner must have the right to defend itself.
pfd/jlw (Reuters, dpa)