German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday the standoff over Ukraine could be solved but only if control was tightened over the Ukraine-Russia border across which, the West alleges, Russia has been funnelling arms to help a separatist rebellion.
Merkel was visiting Kiev as a prelude to a meeting next week between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders that diplomats say is the best chance in months of a peace deal in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are fighting pro-Moscow rebels.
But she arrived as tensions flared up again. NATO has alleged Russia’s military is active inside Ukraine helping the rebels, and Moscow angered Kiev and its Western allies by sending an aid convoy into Ukraine against Kiev’s wishes.
“There must be two sides to be successful. You cannot achieve peace on your own. I hope the talks with Russia will lead to success,” said Merkel, looking ahead to a meeting on Tuesday involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko. “The plans are on the table...now actions must follow,” the German leader told a news conference after talks with Poroshenko in the Ukrainian capital. She said a ceasefire was needed, but the main obstacle was the lack of controls along the nearly 2,000 km border. She proposed an agreement between Kiev and Moscow on monitoring of the frontier by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Poroshenko suggested he saw scope for accord. “The Ukrainian side and our European partners will do everything possible to bring about peace - but not at the price of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Ukraine,” he said. Hours before her plane landed in Kiev, there was heavy artillery bombardment in Donetsk, the main separatist stronghold on the east of Ukraine.