Ukraine crisis: Leaders set for new Minsk peace talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollandet are expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President  Petro Poroshenko in the capital of Belarus on Wednesday to discuss new peace plan for Ukraine, amid fears the crisis is worsening.

However Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Minsk meeting could only happen on Wednesday “if by then we have managed to agree our positions”.

Sources said Mr Putin forwarded a nine-page peace proposal to Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande last week before their visit. The proposal included a series of demands, including the pullback of all Ukrainian weapons to new lines within the country.

 The announcement comes two days after German Chancellor and French president travelled to Moscow for talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin that produced no breakthrough in the nearly year-long conflict that has claimed over 5,000 lives.

After phone talks on Sunday, Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko said progress had been made and he was hopeful this week’s meeting in Minsk would lead to a “swift and unconditional ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have stepped up a military offensive in recent weeks, seizing new territory.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has also called on NATO states to send weapons to his country.

The United States is considering whether to provide weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists, although no decision has been made, senior administration officials said on Monday.

European defence ministers spoke out on Thursday against sending weapons to the Ukrainian army, pointing to a potential transatlantic split if Washington decides to supply arms.

“More weapons in this area will not bring us closer to a solution, and will not end the suffering of the population,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

At a high-level security conference in Munich over the weekend, Ms Merkel said it was uncertain whether further negotiations would lead to a deal with Mr Putin but argued for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

Ms Merkel flew to Washington on Sunday for talks with US president Barack Obama, and has spoken to Mr Putin by phone dozens of times over the past year.

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