The leaders of Germany and France say they want to start a new bid to defuse the conflict in eastern Ukraine. They also urged "ambitious timetables" for the EU in a future without Great Britain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that she was dissatisfied with the current progress made in implementing the Minsk peace accords in eastern Ukraine, and that the conflict should be put on the agenda of the G-20 summit beginning this Sunday in Hangzhou, China.
Speaking after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in the resort town of Evian on Lake Geneva, Merkel said that Germany and France "were well aligned with each other" and would "give the same impetus."
The conflict in eastern Ukraine pitting Moscow-backed separatists against government troops has killed more than 9,500 people since it erupted in 2014.
International monitors have reported a rise in the number of clashes over the past few weeks, after peace accords signed in Minsk, Belarus, in 2014 and reaffirmed in 2015 initially reduced the violence. Russia and Ukraine each accuse each other of violating the agreements.
Germany and France were instrumental in bringing about the Minsk agreements, to which Russia and Ukraine were also party.
New four-leader talks?
Merkel, Hollande are also expected to discuss Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of this weekend's G20 summit, which brings together leaders from 20 major world economies. The German and French leaders are likely to try to bring Putin back to the table in the so-called "Normandy Four" format together with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Putin has recently shown reluctance to hold such talks, accusing Kyiv of plotting to invade Crimea, a region that Russia annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 in a move not recognized by much of the international community, and of having no interest in a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The "Normandy Four" format is named for the first meeting of the heads of the four states held in June 2014 in Normandy, France. The talks took place on the sidelines of ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied operation that landed hundreds of thousands of troops on France's shores to begin taking back German-occupied Western Europe during the Second World War.
Business after the 'Brexit'
Merkel and Hollande made their remarks on Ukraine while in Evian for a meeting with some 50 German and French business leaders.
At the business meeting, both leaders urged fast decisions regarding internal security and the promotion of the digital economy, particularly in view of Britain's decision to exit the European Union, with Merkel saying that the bloc needed "ambitious timetables"
"We need European institutions to act faster," she said, adding: "We can't wait so long, but really have to come up with successes month after month."
The 27 EU states without Great Britain will meet on 16 September in Slovakia to discuss the future of the bloc after the "Brexit."
tj/kms (dpa, AFP)