Merkel expects 'open' Ukraine talks with Putin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday there were plans for her to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this week and that she hoped for "an open exchange of opinions" on the Ukraine crisis.
Both leaders will attend a two-day Asia-Europe meeting of leaders in Milan, Italy, starting Thursday and "there are plans for talks with the Russian president", Merkel said.
"I expect an open exchange of opinions and progress in the implementation of the Minsk Agreement," she said, referring to the Ukraine ceasefire deal Moscow and Kiev agreed in early September in the Belarussian capital.
The talks would aim to cover the "whole range" of issues relating to Ukraine, also including a standoff on gas deliveries between Moscow and Kiev.
Merkel, speaking at a joint Berlin press conference with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, said she hoped the Minsk deal would "become a reality".
Merkel and Putin have been in frequent contact amid the Ukraine crisis, the worst East-West conflict since the Cold War.
Putin has indicated that he will also be raising the issue of the cancellation of a bilateral civil society forum called the Petersburg Dialogue that has served to promote Germany-Russia ties.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also Wednesday pushed for progress, including on securing the Russia-Ukraine border and on prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.
Steinmeier was speaking during a visit by French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who had attended a Berlin cabinet meeting, and who also demanded a "de-escalation" of the Ukraine conflict.
Both ministers said they hoped for speedy progress on their joint offer to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send drones to monitor Ukraine's eastern border for incursions of Russian fighters and arms.
Steinmeier said some questions still had to be resolved, including whether Ukraine's parliament needs to agree if armed military personnel accompany the drones, but said that he expected the matter to be settled later this month.
© 2014 AFP