Ukraine crisis front and center on final day of Munich Security Conference | News | DW | 08.02.2015
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Ukraine crisis front and center on final day of Munich Security Conference

The third and final day of the Munich Security Conference has kicked off with a number of international issues on the agenda. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has dominated discussions.

A day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her speech to the conference to champion a peace initiative that she launched along with French President Francois Hollande over the past few days, her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (pictured above) took to the podium on Sunday.

The German foreign minister used his speech to accuse Russia of hindering efforts to make peace through its lack of willingness to compromise.

Steinmeier also said that remarks made by his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Saturday, in which he blamed the West not just for the conflict in Ukraine, but also for a litany of alleged injustices towards Moscow since the end of the Cold War, were not helpful.

"It is Moscow's responsibility to identify common interests," Steinmeier said. "We have seen too little of this so far. And the speech by my colleague Lavrov yesterday made no contribution to this."

Crucial conference call

His comments came as the international community eagerly awaited the outcome of a telephone conference call to be held later on Sunday, involving Merkel, Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The four leaders are to discuss the peace initiative put forward by Merkel and Hollande in a last ditch bid to stop the fighting in Ukraine. In her address on Saturday, though, Merkel played down hopes of a breakthrough.

The need for EU-US unity on Ukraine

The chancellor also called on the United States and the European Union to remain united in its approach to the Ukraine crisis, despite disagreement over the wisdom of sending more arms to the Ukrainian government. While the US is reported to be considering doing so, Merkel spoke out clearly against the idea.

"I can't conceive of a situation where better armaments for the Ukrainian army would so impress President Putin that he believes he will militarily lose," Merkel said.

Later on Saturday, US Vice President Joe Biden told the conference that Kyiv had a right to defend itself.

"We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance. Not to encourage war but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," Biden said.

"Let me be clear: We do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine. But let me be equally clear: We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they're doing."

Speaking on Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, though, played down the difference of opinion about supplying weapons, saying Washington and the European Union stood as one against Russia's policy in Ukraine.

"There is no division and no split. We are united, working closely together ... in support of Ukraine."

pfd/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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