German FM flies to Kiev, Moscow in effort to revive peace plan

Author : Mircea Birca | Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News
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Germany’s foreign minister jetted to Kiev and Moscow yesterday in a bid to revive a failing peace plan in east Ukraine, as deadly fighting pushed EU-Russia relations to breaking point. Berlin’s top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier was set to hold key talks with Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders before heading to Moscow for a crunch sit-down with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

On the ground, Ukraine’s military said fresh clashes over the past 24 hours between government forces and rebels killed five of its soldiers despite a nominal truce that has halted fighting along much of the frontline but failed to stop bombardments at key flashpoints. The European Union on Monday agreed to blacklist more Kremlin-backed rebels in Ukraine but stopped short of fresh sanctions against Moscow, saying there was hope of restarting dialogue with Moscow to end the worst standoff since the Cold War.

New European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said foreign ministers meeting in Brussels had raised the possibility of her visiting Moscow to “re-engage in a dialogue” in search of a solution to the crisis that has claimed more than 4,100 lives. The EU’s defence ministers were also due to hold a meeting in Brussels to discuss the crisis, with NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg attending the talks. Ahead of Steinmeier’s visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow hoped “that the ‘point of no return’ has not yet been crossed” in its relations with Europe.

Lavrov cautioned there would not be a major breakthrough at the talks with his counterpart from Germany-which has been playing the lead role in mediating the crisis-but said Moscow wanted to reach “a balance acceptable to all parties.” The German foreign ministry on Monday said the visit was aimed at assessing the “chances of avoiding a new spiral of violence in eastern Ukraine.”

Lavrov’s caution came as the tit-for-tat expulsions of a string of European diplomats have further heightened tensions between the 28-nation bloc and its vast eastern neighbour. Moscow said Monday it had expelled a German diplomat in retaliation for a diplomat being forced to leave Russia’s consulate-general in Bonn, while several Polish diplomats were also expelled for alleged spying.

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