Saturday’s session of the annual Munich Security Conference began with a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who took the podium just hours after returning from Moscow, where she and French President Francois Hollande presented a new peace initiative to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In her first direct comments since Friday’s more than four hours of talks, the chancellor did not appear overly optimistic that the German-French initiative would bring an end to the fighting between pro-Russia separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine.
«After the talks yesterday in Moscow that the French president and I had, it is uncertain if it will succeed,» Merkel said.
«But it is in my view and the French president’s view definitely worth trying. We owe it to the people affected in Ukraine, at the very least,» the chancellor said.
Addressing the conference a little later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed slightly more optimistic.
«These talks will continue as you know; we believe there is every possibility that we will reach a result and agree the recommendations that will allow the sides to really untie this knot of a conflict,» Russia’s top diplomat said.
However, he also took the opportunity to lay the blame for the 10-month-old conflict squarely on the West.
"The United States and the European Union have taken steps to escalate the Ukraine crisis at every turn," Lavrov said.
He also denounced "growing appeals in the West to … pump Ukraine full with lethal weapons and to involve it in NATO."
Discord over supplying weapons
This followed an earlier statement made to a group of reporters by the military commander of NATO, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who said the Western alliance should not rule out the idea of providing weapons to Ukraine.