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Foreign Relations

Steinmeier floats talks for Ukraine crisis

Germany's new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has declined a request to mediate in neighboring Ukraine over its unresolved wrangle on whether to align with the European Union or Russia.

Steinmeier said Thursday there was "no lack" of mediation contacts in Kyiv where since late November pro-Europe protestors have challenged President Viktor Yanukovich's refusal to sign a prepared association pact with the EU.

Steinmeier was referring to recent visits by EU and American officials to Ukraine and a call to mediate from Ukrainian boxer-turned-opposition figure Vitali Klitscho, who on Thursday said 70 percent of Ukrainians wanted EU ties.

"The problem is that no decisions have taken place that would free this country [Ukraine] from its inner division," Steinmeier said, adding that he hoped to revitalize foreign ministerial talks between Poland, Germany and Russia.

This could perhaps be just what was needed, given Ukraine's problems, he said.

Steinmeier visits neighbors

Steinmeier made his remarks in Poland's capital, Warsaw, his second trip to a German neighbor after visiting Paris on Wednesday as he resumed his duties as Germany's top diplomat.

He held talks with Polish President Bronislav Komoriski and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.

Steinmeier and Sikorski called on Ukraine's pro-Russian government and pro-European opposition to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

"We are both highly interested that the situation does not escalate," Sikorski said. "If Yanukovich wanted to find a solution, then he would have long done this. But he simply doesn't want to find a solution."

Steinmeier said the EU's offer of cooperation remained on the table.

Lavrov also visits Warsaw

Sikorski was also visited on Thursday by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, which on Wednesday offered Ukraine nearly 11 billion euros (15 billion dollars) in loans plus discounted natural gas supplies.

The Polish and Russian counterparts reportedly discussed reports that Russia had deployed start-of-the art Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Russia's westernmost enclave near the Baltic Sea borders EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

Last Monday, Poland and Lithuania expressed concern, with Lithuania saying further militarization created "further anxiety."

Sikorski and Lavrov inked an unprecedented accord outlining cooperation between Poland and Russia until 2020.

Poland, an EU member since 2004, has long been an ardent advocate of Ukraine moving closer to the bloc, a move vehemently opposed by Moscow.

Klitscho – Ukrainian majority favor EU

Writing in Thursday's edition of Germany's tabloid newspaper "Bild," Klitscho said 70 percent of Ukrainians "wish for a treaty with the EU and not with Russia."

"The European politicians must realize this: with [Ukraine's] current government and this president there will be no alignment with Europe."

Steinmeier, a center-left Social Democrat, previously served under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in the first grand coalition she led between 2005 and 2009. Her latest coalition cabinet, including Steinmeier, was inaugurated Tuesday.

ipj/jlw (dpa, Reuters)

DW.DE