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Thursday, 25 January 2018


Germany’s foreign affairs minister is calling for the establishment of an armed U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine before Russia’s March presidential election. Sigmar Gabriel told reporters after talks in Kyiv with his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, on January 3 that such a force would be “essential” for ensuring the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Mr. Gabriel was scheduled to visit the contact line separating government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine on January 4, but that leg of the trip was canceled because of poor weather conditions, Mr. Klimkin said in a tweet.

The Ukrainian foreign affairs minister added that the two are planning to reschedule the trip for later in January. “This has to be a strong, armed mission that is present across the entire territory of the conflict zone,” Mr. Gabriel said, adding that Germany and France will propose such a peacekeeping mission to the U.N. Security Council in hopes it will bring about a “lasting ceasefire” in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Gabriel said the Russian presidential election should not factor into negotiations with the United Nations on deploying a mission to Ukraine. “The establishment of a firm peace settlement should not depend on elections in Russia,” he said. “And I hope that we will be able to adopt a realistic and appropriate mandate for the U.N. mission before the election in Russia is held.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to easily win the March 18 vote, has backed establishing a U.N. peacekeeping mission only along the frontline in eastern Ukraine that separates territory controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists from the rest of Ukraine. The Kremlin also opposes placing armed U.N. peacekeepers along parts of its border with Ukraine not under Kyiv’s control.

But Ukraine and its Western allies oppose the narrow role Russia has proposed for the peacekeepers and have pushed for a broader role for the U.N. in an attempt to quell the conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since it broke out in 2014. Mr. Gabriel’s visit to Ukraine came days after Washington announced it will provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, reportedly including powerful U.S. anti-tank missiles, for the first time, in a decision that angered Moscow.

Mr. Klimkin said the weapons would only be used for defensive purposes and should not spark an escalation of the war. “These weapons can and will be used in case of a provocation by Russia,” said Mr. Klimkin. “They will not be used for offensive purposes.” Germany’s foreign affairs minister, however, questioned the U.S. decision to sell additional weapons to Ukraine. “If there is one thing there is too much of in this region, that is weapons,” Mr. Gabriel said. “We in Germany take a rather skeptical view of arms deliveries being able to resolve the conflict.”

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