President Obama meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the crisis in Ukraine at the White House, February 9, 2015. Photo Credits: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
The leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to meet in Belarus this Wednesday in an attempt to negotiate a peace deal for war-torn Eastern Ukraine.
The announcement came after the leaders of the four countries discussed the on-going conflict by telephone on Sunday, two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande travelled to Moscow for talks with Russian President Putin that produced no results.
The new push for diplomacy is aimed at ending a crisis that has already claimed more than 5000 lives and displaced around 1.5 million people from their homes.
Meanwhile in Washington, Chancellor Merkel met President Obama today to argue against arming Ukraine in its conflict against Russian-backed rebels. President Obama, known to hold reservations about the supplementation of arms to the Ukrainian rebels, stated that the option of providing lethal defence weaponry to the Ukrainian government remains open and is only “one option under consideration”.
Critics of the US’s largely cautious foreign policy so far have been advocating decisive US action to help Kiev fight the separatists in Ukraine, even though this may deepen the transatlantic standoff between Russia and America. Senior Republican Senator John McCain dismissed European attitudes towards the conflict at the weekend, arguing that “the Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we’re sending them blankets and meals. Blankets don’t do well against Russian tanks,” an indication towards the growing belief in Congress that some form of military support seems to have become necessary.
However, there remains agreement for a diplomatic solution as well as unity between Europe and the USA about the continuation of economic sanctions on Russia which have so far plunged the Russian economy into trouble as it struggles with the falling price of oil, the country’s main export. European foreign ministers today agreed to visa bans and asset freezes on more Ukrainian separatists and Russians, although these will be delayed until at least February 16th according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to give the peace effort more time.