​EU won’t be pushed into confrontation over Ukraine – foreign policy chief

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini (Reuters / Ints Kalnins)
The EU is resisting calls from hotheads to supply arms to Ukraine, saying it won’t be pulled into a confrontation with Russia. Europeans cite the progress in implementing a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and local rebels.

The idea of providing lethal aid to Kiev is popular among many NATO officials and American politicians. US House Speaker John Boehner and a bipartisan group of top lawmakers called on President Barack Obama to deliver the weapons. But Europeans are opposing the move, which would likely escalate tensions with Russia.

“The European Union today is extremely realistic about developments in Russia. But we will never be trapped or forced or pushed or pulled into a confrontative [sic] attitude,” the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told the media on Friday, following an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia.

“We still believe that around our continent – not only in but around – cooperation is far better than confrontation. We still argue for that,” she added.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the EU’s goal in Ukraine is “a ceasefire, not an escalation.”

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Germany has been among the most vocal critics of sending arms to Ukraine and now German officials question the assessment of the situation in the country voiced by Kiev armament pundits.

“The statements [on Ukraine] from our source do not fully coincide with the statements made by NATO and the US,” German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after the conference. “We are interested in not allowing it to grow into a misunderstanding.”

The German Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government suspects the US and NATO of trying to derail the EU’s mediation effort in Ukraine.

The Minsk ceasefire agreement between Kiev and rebels in eastern Ukraine was brokered last month by Germany, France and Russia. So far, it’s mostly holding, with both parties pulling some of their heavy weapons back from the front line, and OSCE monitors reporting a significant reduction in violence.

READ MORE: Moscow, Paris, Berlin want more OSCE observers in E.Ukraine - Russia's rep

The EU says it wants to increase the number of OSCE observers on the ground, doubling its current ceiling of 500.

"The main point is obviously working to increase the number of selected and skilled people that can do the job," Mogherini said. The more observers the tougher it would be to violate the conditions of the Minsk agreement with impunity.

Kiev and its foreign backers, particularly in Washington, accuse Russia of propping up the rebel forces with weapons and troops. Moscow insists that it has no involvement in the armed conflict and has only delivered humanitarian aid to the ravaged areas.