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Merkel, Hollande to Moscow for peace talks

February 6, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are set to put a new peace plan to Vladimir Putin. The West sees the Russian president as crucial to ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel und Petro Poroschenko
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Maxim

Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande were to travel to Moscow later on Friday for a meeting with President Putin, whom the West has repeatedly accused of stoking the fires of war in eastern Ukraine by supporting pro-Russia separatists with weapons and fighters - something the Kremlin has denied.

The two European leaders put the plan to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but both Merkel and Hollande declined to comment after their talks. Prior to their meeting, however, Poroshenko said their initiative raised "hope for a ceasefire."

'Territorial integrity of Ukraine'

No details of the European peace initiative have been released but before leaving Paris on Thursday, Hollande told reporters that in their talks in Kyiv and Moscow he and Merkel would "propose a new solution to the conflict based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Little more has been made public about the plan, but the Associated Press cited Western diplomatic sources who said it included parts of a nine-page peace plan previously proposed by Putin, but which dropped elements Kyiv and the Europeans found most objectionable. The proposal is said to include greater autonomy for eastern Ukraine, as well as special protections for language and culture.

A report by the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung daily went further, saying the plan would not just give the separatists greater autonomy within Ukraine, but that this would apply to a larger area than agreed in a failed truce deal reach last September in Minsk.

Berlin, however, dismissed the Süddeutsche report "not accurate."

Also in Kyiv on Thursday was US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose visit came at a time when Washington was reported to be considering starting weapons deliveries to Ukraine. Kerry told a press conference that US President Barack Obama was "reviewing all his options" but that Washington wanted diplomacy to work and was "not interested in a proxy war."

John Kerry
Kerry: "US not interested in proxy war"Image: Reuters/E. Vucci

NATO's response

In Brussels, meanwhile, NATO's military commander, US General Philip Breedlove, said their intelligence showed that Russia was continuing to supply the separatists with state-of-the-art weapons.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance's defense ministers had agreed to proceed with forming a quick-reaction force of 5,000 ground troops and boost the size of its Response Force from 13,00 to 30,000 personnel.

pfd/sms (AP, AFP)