German minister to visit Ukraine amid fears over truce

27th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit Ukraine on Friday and Saturday, the government in Berlin said, voicing fears about a possible "new military escalation" in the separatist conflict.

"We are seriously concerned about the situation in eastern Ukraine because it has not yet been possible to consolidate a sustainable and resilient ceasefire," foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Wednesday.

"The risk of a new military escalation still exists, especially in hotspots near Mariupol and Donetsk airport," he told a regular press conference.

A more than three-month-old ceasefire deal has reduced but not ended fighting in the pro-Russian uprising that has claimed nearly 6,300 lives, most recently those of four civilians and one Ukrainian soldier.

Russia rejects Western accusations it is fomenting the insurgency in which the separatists have seized control of parts of the Russian-speaking Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

Steinmeier will meet Ukrainian leaders on Friday, and on Saturday visit government-held eastern regions for talks with monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Amid Ukraine's deep economic crisis, "this visit is intended as a signal of support and encouragement for the Ukrainian leadership for the rigorous reform path it has taken," said Schaefer.

Steinmeier on Saturday travels on to Israel for talks with the government and the Palestinian leadership before visiting France on Tuesday for talks on the international coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, Schaefer said.

© 2015 AFP

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