Merkel meets with Ukraine opposition | News | DW | 17.02.2014
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Merkel meets with Ukraine opposition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met with Ukrainian opposition leaders in Berlin. The sit-down came just hours after Ukraine granted amnesty to jailed protesters.

The German chancellor met with Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitali Klitschko and Arseni Yatsenyuk late Monday afternoon in Berlin. The visit was aimed at garnering more support from Chancellor Merkel's government for the opposition's efforts to curb powers of the Ukrainian president in order to end several months of mass protests and political unrest in Kyiv.

The chancellor's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had expressed "sympathy for the legitimate concerns of the Ukrainian people." He also said that she had reassured Klitschko and Yatsenyuk that Germany, in cooperation with the EU, would do everything it could to contribute to a positive outcome to the crisis.

While Chancellor Merkel said she supported the opposition's goals of pushing for constitutional reform and forming a new government, she said that she did not agree with Klitschko's calls for sanctions against the Ukrainian government.

Further financial support from the EU and possible sanctions against the Ukrainian government were also discussed during the closed-door talks.

Klitschko and Yatsenyuk were scheduled to meet with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier later in the evening.

In November, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych's shelved an Association Agreement with the EU in favor of a loan and natural gas deal with Moscow. The move prompted mass protests in the capital calling for his resignation. Meanwhile, members of the opposition have been calling for constitutional reform that would curb the powers of the president.

On Monday, the German foreign ministry called recent developments in Kyiv "encouraging." Following protesters' ending their two-month occupation of city hall in the capital, the Ukrainian government announced that a long-sought amnesty for jailed protesters had officially gone into effect.

Klitschko seeking German leadership

Ahead of the meeting, heavyweight-boxing-champion-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko wrote a guest op-ed in the German daily newspaper Bild, imploring Berlin to put more pressure on the Ukrainian president.

"I would hope that Germany take on a leading role in mediation [efforts]. We desperately need more independent observers in [Ukraine]!" Klitschko wrote.

He also vowed to take up the issue of sanctions during his meetings with both Merkel and Steinmeier.

"We've been calling for Ukrainian government members' accounts to be frozen and for them to be barred from travelling into the EU - we now want a clear signal [regarding these demands]," Klitschko added.

The German foreign ministry appeared to dismiss this idea on Monday when it praised the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for its positive influence on the political crisis in Kyiv.

"We welcome the mediatory role which the OSCE - represented by Switzerland and Swiss envoys in Kyiv - have played and believe that this could be a model for the bigger questions ahead," foreign ministry spokesperson Martin Schäfer said on Monday in Berlin.

The Vienna-based organization is compromised of 57 countries from Europe, North America and Asia and works to prevent crises through cooperative efforts, such as dialogue and negotiation.

kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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