Sending weapons to Ukraine would escalate violence – UK Defence Secretary

Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Friday that supplying weapons to Ukraine, an option under consideration in Washington, would escalate the ongoing conflict.

In an interview during the Munich Security Conference, Fallon told Reuters he fully supported a new effort by the leaders of Germany and France to try to halt the Ukraine conflict.

However, the Defence Secretary said territory taken by rebels since the Minsk agreement in September should “absolutely not” be recognized in any new ceasefire.

French President Francoise Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Moscow on Friday to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine, reportedly without informingthe US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in Ukraine discussing Kiev’s plea for weapons.

The two leaders, who are part of the so-called ‘Normandy Four’ group along with Moscow and Kiev, agreed on the trip on Wednesday night, an unnamed French government official told AP.

READ MORE:Kerry in Kiev: Shifting blame from Poroshenko govt as US mulls arms for Ukraine

Together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” Hollande told a news conference on Thursday.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leaders would “discuss what specifically the countries can do to contribute to a speedy end of the civil war in southeastern Ukraine, which has escalated in recent days and resulted in many casualties.”

After the meeting on Thursday with the German and French leaders, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said the talks indicated a ceasefire was possible in eastern Ukraine.

A senior French official told local weekly Le Nouvel Observateur on Thursday that the decision to meet with President Vladimir Putin was taken on Tuesday, after the Russian leader called on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to stop military actions and hostilities.

During his visit to Ukraine, Kerry laid the blame for the conflict’s escalation solely on Russia, and disregarded Kiev’s intensified assault on rebel-held areas.

READ MORE:Hollande, Merkel go to Moscow to discuss Ukraine without consulting US – report

On Thursday, however, the White House admitted that possible military assistance from the US to Ukraine could increase bloodshed in the region. Earlier in the day, Kerry said Washington preferred a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

However, the Secretary of State maintained “Russian aggression” was the greatest threat to Ukraine.

Following his meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kerry told journalists it was impossible to ignore “tanks crossing the border from Russia” and “Russian fighters in unmarked uniforms crossing the border, and leading individual companies of so-called separatists in battle.”

Russia has long rejected allegations of its troops being engaged in the eastern Ukraine conflict.

“I say it every time: if you are so sure in stating that, confirm it with facts. But no one can or wants to provide them,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in January.