February 7, 2015 / 8:54 PM / 5 years ago

Franco-German plan will offer more details on Minsk - U.S. official

MUNICH (Reuters) - A Franco-German initiative to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine is based on the Minsk peace pact but will contain more details on implementation and timing of the deal, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Saturday.

“What is different is there is a bit more detail around how it will be implemented and more of a roadmap on timing, but it is broadly consistent with Minsk,” a senior State Department official said after meetings between the United States and leaders from Germany and Ukraine.

The official said it was unclear how successful the initiative will be, acknowledging that the plan could involve a broader buffer zone between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday the deal with Moscow could only work if all 12 elements of the Minsk agreement, sealed last September in Belarus, were respected.

Since the agreement, pro-Russian separatists have made huge territorial gains in eastern Ukraine, fuelling doubts over whether they will respect it in its current form.

The official said a big part of the Franco-German effort was to flesh out more details on implementation of the agreement.

“When you get to the fine print and implementation that is where this has got into trouble in the past, so a big part of the effort is to flesh that out in a way that may be more successful in terms of implementation,” the official added.

The Obama administration has said it is weighing all options on how to help Ukraine counter the increased offensive from the rebels, including the possibility of sending arms to help Kiev.

However, Germany’s Angela Merkel said that arming Ukraine would not solve the crisis, drawing sharp rebukes from U.S. politicians who accused Berlin of turning its back on an ally in distress.

The official denied there was a rift between the United States and its European allies over the issue.

“There is a wholly consistent diplomatic approach to this problem in the United States and our European partners and that was very clear in the meetings today,” the official added.

Merkel travels to Washington on Sunday for talks with President Barack Obama on Ukraine.

“Given that neither the European partners nor the United States are providing weapons to the Ukrainians there is not a rift about this,” the official added: “We will see where we end up policy-wise, but as of now with the diplomatic approach and with the situation regarding the provision of weapons we are all on the same place.”

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Sandra Maler

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