(Releads with Steinmeier comments, Kremlin statement)
BERLIN, July 19 Germany's foreign minister said
on Saturday now may be Moscow's last opportunity to prove it is
serious about peace in Ukraine as Chancellor Angela Merkel
reiterated her call on Russia's Vladimir Putin to use his
influence over pro-Moscow separatists.
World leaders have called for a rapid investigation into the
shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern
Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people on Thursday in what may be
a pivotal moment for Russian and the West.
"Moscow may have a last opportunity now to show that it
really is seriously interested in a solution," German Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild am Sonntag newspaper,
according to a pre-publication release.
"Now is the moment for all to stop and think about what can
happen if we don't stop the escalation."
Ukraine accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels on Saturday of
destroying evidence of "international crimes" from the wreckage
of the plane that Kiev says militants shot down with a missile.
Steinmeier echoed Merkel in saying Russia had not done
enough to stop the rebels, as weapons and fighters had crossed
the Russian border into Ukraine in recent weeks.
Merkel spoke to Putin again on the phone earlier on Saturday
and urged him to use his influence the separatists to reach a
ceasefire in Ukraine, the German government said in a statement.
The two leaders agreed that the contact group of diplomats
from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), Russia and Ukraine should meet quickly and directly with
the separatists to reach the truce.
"Both agreed that an international, independent commission
under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation
Organisation (ICAO) should get quick access to the crash site of
the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in east Ukraine," Berlin
said in a statement.
The United States has imposed heavier economic sanctions on
Moscow than the European Union. Merkel's influence on the
European Union is seen as one of the reasons why Brussels has
been more reluctant than Washington to impose wider economic
Critics say this is partly because of Germany's strong trade
links with Russia, which provides more than a third of its gas
(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)