Angela Merkel urges high-level meeting on eastern Ukraine in 'farewell visit' to Kyiv
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged further peace talks on the situation in eastern Ukraine in her "farewell visit" to Kyiv before Germany's September election.
"I would plead for another meeting at the presidential level or the political leadership level with myself, the French President and the Russian and Ukrainian President. That in my opinion would bring us progress, if we can work out a good agenda - our advisers should do that," Merkel said.
Merkel was instrumental in the 2015 brokered ceasefire deal agreed in Minsk between Russia and Ukraine, but the last talks on the situation were in 2019.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 14,000 people since 2014.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he supported the idea of a meeting, but urged western countries to put more pressure on Russia over Crimea.
He said Kyiv is seeking a permanent cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, a prisoner exchange, open crossings at the line of contact and to ensure Red Cross access to the conflict zone.
“As long as there is no progress, the pressure on Russia should continue. We want to see active efforts of our Western partners,” Zelenskyy said.
Merkel noted that some of the goals named by Zelenskyy, like "the opening of further crossings on the line of contact or other humanitarian questions, have not yet been implemented, and that weighs down the process a great deal.”
“However, one has to say again and again: that at present, we have no other format in which can discuss these things, and so work should be continued here,” Merkel said.
Merkel, who is not standing in the upcoming German elections, added that she expects the next German government to “work in the same spirit” with Ukraine.
Merkel's visit to Kyiv came 48 hours after she met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a day before the Crimea Platform, a summit hosted by Ukraine to discuss the situation in Crimea.
But neither Merkel nor foreign affairs minister Heiko Maas will be able to attend the summit.
Pipeline that bypasses Ukraine causes problems
The pair also spoke about issues relating to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will bypass Ukraine as a transit country. It will allow more Russian gas exports to reach Europe and is nearing completion.
"We agree with the Americans that gas should not be used as a geopolitical weapon, and this will be reflected in the question of whether there will be an extension of this amount, of the transit contract through Ukraine, and the sooner this happens the better," Merkel said.
Ukraine opposes the project, and Zelenskyy on Sunday called it Russia's geopolitical “weapon.”
“I believe that this is a weapon and it is not correct not to see it as a weapon," he said. “The launch will lead to great risks and it will play into the hands of Russia.”
The US decided against sanctions over the pipeline in May, coming to an agreement with Germany about it in July.
Merkel said on Sunday that if the pipeline is used as a weapon against Ukraine, they could consider sanctions against Russia.