British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Friday that supplying weapons to Ukraine, an option under consideration in Washington, would escalate the ongoing conflict.
In an interview during the Munich Security Conference, Fallon told Reuters he fully supported a new effort by the leaders of Germany and France to try to halt the Ukraine conflict.
French President Francoise Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Moscow on Friday to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine, reportedly without informingthe US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in Ukraine discussing Kiev’s plea for weapons.
The two leaders, who are part of the so-called ‘Normandy Four’ group along with Moscow and Kiev, agreed on the trip on Wednesday night, an unnamed French government official told AP.
“Together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” Hollande told a news conference on Thursday.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leaders would “discuss what specifically the countries can do to contribute to a speedy end of the civil war in southeastern Ukraine, which has escalated in recent days and resulted in many casualties.”
After the meeting on Thursday with the German and French leaders, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said the talks indicated a ceasefire was possible in eastern Ukraine.
A senior French official told local weekly Le Nouvel Observateur on Thursday that the decision to meet with President Vladimir Putin was taken on Tuesday, after the Russian leader called on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to stop military actions and hostilities.
During his visit to Ukraine, Kerry laid the blame for the conflict’s escalation solely on Russia, and disregarded Kiev’s intensified assault on rebel-held areas.
Russia has long rejected allegations of its troops being engaged in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
“I say it every time: if you are so sure in stating that, confirm it with facts. But no one can or wants to provide them,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in January.
It was a day of bluster and speeches but also paralysis over how to bring the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine to an end.
On one side, hawks in Washington favour supplying “advanced weapons” to Ukraine’s government in Kiev. On the other, cautious European leaders warned it is easier to provoke Vladimir Putin than to scare him.
“I am firmly convinced this conflict cannot be solved with military means,” said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor at the Munich Security Conference.
Mrs Merkel, who is the only major Western leader to have a working relationship with Mr Putin, said a flow of American arms to Ukraine would not intimidate the Russian leader.
“I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily,” she said. “I have to put it that bluntly.”
President Barack Obama has remained silent so far, but Ashton Carter, his nominee for defence secretary, told a Senate committee last week that he is “very much inclined” to provide arms to Petro Poroshenko’s government.
On Saturday Mr Putin insisted that his country was innocent, saying during a visit to Sochi on the Black Sea: “We are not going to wage war on anyone, we plan to cooperate with everybody.”
“There clearly is an attempt to restrain our development with different means,” he told trade union activists. “There is an attempt to perturb the existing world order... with one incontestable leader who wants to remain as such thinking he is allowed everything while others are only allowed what he allows and only in his interests.This world order will never suit Russia.”
In Munich, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, took the West to task for allegedly escalating the conflict but expressed hope the renewed peace talks would bear fruit. “We believe there is every possibility that we will reach a result and agree the recommendations that will allow the sides to really untie this knot of a conflict,” he said.
The Obama White House has finally released the names of the fourteen Muslim “leaders” who met with the President this past week. Among the group — which included a comedian, along with a hijab-wearing basketball player and a handful of left wing activists — were a select few individuals with disturbingly close ties to the global Muslim Brotherhood.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Sunday he would continue to try to defeat an expected agreement between the US and Iran over the latter’s nuclear development program as Washington predicted a handshake on the matter in the coming weeks.
“The [international] powers and Iran are racing forward with an agreement that will allow Iran to arm with nuclear weapons, something that will threaten the existence of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu declared that he was ready to go head to head with US Secretary of State John Kerry in order to stop the deal.
“At the end of the week, Kerry and [Iranian Foreign Minister] Zarif announced their intention to complete the framework agreement by the end of March, and that is what gives rise to the urgency in our efforts to try and halt this bad and dangerous agreement,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to act and to lead the international efforts against the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons and we will act in every way to foil the bad and dangerous agreement that would cast a heavy cloud over the future of Israel.”
The comments came after Kerry stressed to his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that the US aimed to meet a late March deadline for a deal reining in Iran’s nuclear program when the two men met on Friday in Munich.
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