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Hollande, Obama call on Russia to de-escalate Ukraine crisis

France and the United States on Friday urged Moscow to help de-escalate the Ukraine crisis or face “new measures” by the Western powers, the French presidency said in a statement.

French leader Francois Hollande spoke by phone with US President Barack Obama and the two called on Russia “to quickly appeal to the armed separatist groups (in east Ukraine) to halt their military actions”.

They welcomed the one-week unilateral ceasefire called by Ukraine’s new Western-backed president, Petro Poroshenko, earlier in the day which had been immediately rejected by a senior pro-Russian rebel commander and criticised by the Kremlin as an ‘ultimatum’ for militias to give up their weapons in the violence-torn east.

Hollande and Obama called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “prevent the transfer of materiel in Ukraine and to reinforce control of the Russo-Ukrainian border”.

“Failure to make progress in this way will lead to new measures being adopted against Russia.”

The two leaders also discussed Iraq and underlined the need for a “government of national unity” after jihadist rebels seized control of large swathes of territory north of Baghdad in recent days.

They “stressed the gravity of the situation (in Iraq) and the need to bring a lasting political solution on the basis of a government of national unity. They agreed on the importance of combining their efforts to bring this about,” the statement said.

On Thursday, Obama called on Iraq’s Shiite president, Nouri al-Maliki, to reach out to other communities in the country and announced the dispatch of US “military consultants” to support the fight against the Sunni jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).