Merkel meets with North American leaders ahead of Wednesday peace talks on Ukraine

Feb 10, 2015 | News

Ian Burns

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday continued her efforts to end the crisis in Ukraine, but an expert on foreign affairs told Humber News her acts were an “act of desperation.”

Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto and visiting professor of government at Harvard University, told Humber News that Merkel is in a difficult situation ahead of Wednesday’s talks in Minsk, Belarus.

Merkel “has become bitterly disillusioned with Putin, but she’s facing pressure from business groups in Germany who want to ‘cave in’ to Russia,” he said.

Merkel finished talks in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa on Monday, but did not receive any firm commitments in her attempts to end the crisis in the Ukraine by diplomatic means.

Merkel met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper late in the day after an earlier meeting in the day with U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Obviously we will proceed extremely cautiously in partnership and collaboration with all our allies,” Harper said at a press conference with Merkel, the Toronto Star reported.

Braun told Humber News Canada has traditionally served as a bridge between U.S. and Europe, and her visit to Ottawa was meant to sound out Harper’s position on action.

Burkhard Eberlein, Associate Professor of Public Policy at York University, told Humber News that he expects Harper to side with the U.S. on pursuing a military solution in Ukraine.

“Canada has talked among the toughest when it comes to Ukraine,” he said.

“The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that is being examined, but I have not made a decision about that yet,” said Obama during a press conference with Merkel at the White House.

Harper made similar comments during his own press conference with Merkel, but still reiterated his preference for a diplomatic solution.

“Unfortunately, to this point in time Putin has rejected diplomatic means, [and] he seeks to move his agenda forward through military violence,” a CBC report quoted him saying.

Ukraine has been in a conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the eastern part of the country since April, and Merkel has been leading the charge for a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

Representatives from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany will meet again Wednesday in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, the Associated Press reported.