German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced alarm Thursday at the fraying ceasefire in Ukraine, but said she was “cautiously optimistic” a deal would be struck to renew Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.
She spoke after talks with visiting Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. Both their countries partly rely for winter heating on gas pipelines which cross Ukrainian territory and worry that Russia’s cut-off since June in gas supplies to Ukraine may escalate into a regional crisis.
The chancellor said it was “obvious” that the Ukraine ceasefire accord reached last month in Minsk was not being applied.
“Both us want as many observers as possible in Ukraine,” she said, referring to lagging efforts to send in military observers under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). These could become “an element of better monitoring.”
“The precondition for this is that the ceasefire really holds, and if the United Nations says yesterday that more than 300 people have lost their lives since this truce went into force, then you see how fragile the situation still is.”
On the gas issue, she said, “I hope (European Union energy) Commissioner (Guenther) Oettinger will succeed after all in finding a solution that provides us and Ukraine with security of supply over the next few months.
“Intense work is going on on this, and, because of that, I am cautiously optimistic.”
Kopacz, who was making her first visit to Berlin since assuming the premiership, admitted “difficult” differences remained with Germany about reducing emissions of climate-changing gases.
Poland, which relies heavily on coal to fire power stations, has been dismayed at EU plans to force steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, charging these would lead to higher electricity prices.
Kopacz said more talks in Berlin between their staff on the issue were planned before next month’s EU summit.
“The solution will arrive at the (European) summit, not here in Berlin,” she added.
Plans call for her to continue to Paris after her Berlin meeting.