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Putin and Merkel resume talks on Ukraine conflict

In their first phone call since the conflict in the Ukraine flared up again, the German chancellor and Russian president agreed on the importance of a ceasefire. But it's still unclear when new peace talks could happen.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on new attempts to bring about a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine in a phone call on Tuesday. The plans include possible talks between their foreign ministers and counterparts from Ukraine and France. 

"The chancellor and the Russian president agreed that new efforts must be made to secure a ceasefire and asked foreign ministers and their advisers to remain in close contact," said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert. He added that Merkel asked Putin to use his influence on pro-Russian seperatists to bring an end to the violence in the Donetsk region.

"Serious concerns were expressed in connection with the escalation of the armed conflict resulting in human losses", a Kremlin spokesperson said of the call. 

According to Moscow, President Putin expressed the desire to hold new peace talks. A meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France and the Ukraine would soon be planned and meetings at the highest levels of government could also be possible, the Kremlin said, but Moscow did not mention any dates for such meetings.

'The situation [...] is still unacceptable'

This was the first call between Chancellor Merkel and President Putin since fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian state troopsflared up again, killing at least 30 people within a week. Since April 2014, some 10,000 people have died in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Watch video 02:25

Massive ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine

While Russia sees Ukraine as responsible for the conflict – including the latest escaliations, Germany sees Russia as at least partly responsible. Government spokesperson Seibert said on Monday that "the main responsibility in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine lies with the separatists that have up until now received massive support from Russia".

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, but new U.S. President Donald Trump – who has said that he might lift the sanctions - could shift the political balance in Moscow's favor. During a visit to Poland on Tuesday, Merkel said sanctions against Moscow over the ongoing conflict Ukraine could not yet be lifted. "The situation on the ground is still unacceptable," she told reporters.                                                                                                                    

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have tried to broker peace in Eastern Ukraine, but the 2015 Minsk peace deal has merely caused a stalematebetween the two parties.

mb/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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