German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday to discuss a peace plan aimed at ending the protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to media reports. The meeting comes ahead of a crucial summit in the Belarusian capital of Minsk later this week, which is to be attended by leaders from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
Over the past week, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have been leading efforts to revive the ceasefire between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed rebels, agreed upon in Minsk in September. The European heads of state also met with Ukrainian leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, and reportedly presented a plan to end fighting in the region. However, details of the proposal have not yet been made public.
During her visit to Washington, Merkel is expected to attempt to reconcile differences between European and American leaders over an appropriate response to the Ukrainian crisis, according to media reports. While many in Europe, including Merkel and Hollande, are in favor of a diplomatic solution, Obama has, in recent weeks, come under increased domestic pressure to provide arms to Ukrainian government troops.
“The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we're sending them blankets and meals. Blankets don't do well against Russian tanks,” U.S. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reportedly said during an international security conference in Munich over the weekend, arguing in favor of providing military aid to Ukraine.
Merkel, however, has opposed providing such aid to Ukraine over fears of escalating the conflict. According to latest figures released by the United Nations, the fighting in Ukraine has already killed over 5,300 people and injured more than 12,000. Nearly a million people have been internally displaced as they flee violence near the country’s eastern border.
Speaking at Munich, Merkel reportedly said that the crisis in the region cannot be solved militarily.
“I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily,” Merkel said, according to media reports, adding that attempting to reach a solution through talks is “definitely worth trying.”