Merkel says Russia sanctions remain 'unavoidable'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Thursday that Europe's goal remains a free and whole Ukraine and that Western sanctions against Russia remain unavoidable until that goal is reached.
She was speaking to parliament hours before the start of a European summit in Brussels that will look at the standoff with economically-battered Russia over the fate of its Soviet-era satellite.
"The goal of our actions is and will remain a sovereign and territorially intact Ukraine that can decide its own future," said Merkel, cautioning that this would require continued "patience and perseverance".
Merkel reiterated that there is "no military solution" and pledged to continue political and economic support for Ukraine, which in turn should "modernise the economy, strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption".
She pointed to the humanitarian situation amid icy winter temperatures and said "Ukraine must be permitted to bring their own relief supplies safely to areas in the east of the country that are controlled by the separatists".
Merkel, a frequent interlocutor with Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressed that Europe continued to seek dialogue with Moscow, and that the goal is "European security cooperation with Russia, not against Russia".
"Until we reach that goal... sanctions remain unavoidable," she said.
Merkel, who grew up under communism in the former East Germany, said that "the end of the Cold War 25 years ago allowed the countries of central and eastern Europe to determine their own paths.
"If we allowed this self-determination to be abandoned today, it would mean nothing less than a new division of Europe into spheres of influence, a new splitting of Europe.
"That would be a major step back for Ukraine, it would be a major step back for European security and for Europe as a whole. And that's why we cannot let that happen. And that's why we will not let that happen."
© 2014 AFP