Diplomacy to resolve Ukraine stand-off goes into overdrive at G7 and D-Day events
G7 summit and D-Day anniversary give leaders platforms to try to resolvestand-off between Kiev and Moscow, as Putin floats above the fray
Associated Press in Brussels
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the months-long stand-off between Ukraine and Russia kicked into high gear in two European capitals yesterday.
After the leaders of the Group of Seven major economies kept the threat of further sanctions against Russia on the table, the action moved from Brussels to Paris, where at least two meetings were planned between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European leaders.
French President Francois Hollande, who hosts D-Day commemorations in Normandy today, said Putin and Ukraine's president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, would be in close proximity to one another.
"Could President Putin meet with President Poroshenko? Yes," Hollande said at the end of the G7 summit in Brussels.
"President Putin has been told. And he is coming, knowing he will be alongside, anyway not far from, the Ukraine president."
European leaders hope this week will offer a chance for a diplomatic breakthrough. US President Barack Obama met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels, and then took a short flight to Paris for dinner with Hollande.
Obama and Cameron said the G7 was giving Moscow a month to meet their conditions in Ukraine or face further sanctions.
"If Mr Putin takes those steps, then it is possible for us to begin to rebuild trust between Russia and its neighbours and Europe," Obama said.
The US and Europe started out showing solidarity against Putin.
But differing approaches are now emerging, and European leaders are planning separate, private meetings with Putin in Paris while Obama is steering clear of him.
Hollande said it was up to Obama whether he met Putin, noting that both men would be at events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
"The important thing is we have the same language, the same arguments on Ukraine all together," Hollande said. "We are seven."
Leaders of the G7 committed themselves to eight far-reaching accords that would encompass more than 80 per cent of the world's economy but effectively sideline China and Russia. The accords have met with protests, particularly in Europe.
"We aim to finalise [these agreements] as soon as possible," the G7 leaders said following the two-day summit. But the talks faced growing hostility , something Obama discussed with his European colleagues.
The G7 meeting was originally supposed to be held in Sochi, Russia, and include Putin. But the leaders froze him out and moved the site to Brussels after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
After an opening dinner on Wednesday night, the group said in a joint statement that they condemned Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and its annexation of Crimea.
But the changing dynamic in Ukraine has raised questions across the West about how to proceed.
The allies had warned Russia that disrupting Ukraine's presidential vote would trigger even harsher sanctions, but Poroshenko's victory has made Western leaders more optimistic.
Obama praised Poroshenko effusively after meeting him for the first time this week in Poland ahead of his inauguration tomorrow.
Russia has signalled its readiness for direct talks with Poroshenko, a billionaire candy tycoon who was elected on May 25.
The election, which came three months after pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych was chased from office by crowds following months of street protests. Since his ouster, Russia has annexed Crimea, the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk have declared their independence from Kiev.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Reuters