KIEV German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Ukraine on Tuesday he hoped 'round table' talks between politicians and civil groups this week would help disarm pro-Russian separatists and improve the atmosphere for elections due later this month.
Steinmeier met Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk at Kiev airport before travelling on to the Black Sea city of Odessa, the site of deadly clashes between Ukrainian forces and rebels.
The situation in parts of Ukraine remained "dangerous and threatening", said the German minister, adding that the priority was for as many voters as possible to take part in presidential elections on May 25.
"We also support your efforts to launch a national dialogue, under Ukrainian ownership, here in your country, through round tables, at the central level and in the regions," Steinmeier told a joint news conference with Yatsenyuk.
"I hope that under these conditions it is possible to take steps to bring back occupied buildings and eventually to disarm illegal groups and restore the state's monopoly on violence," said the German foreign minister.
Yatseniuk thanked former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who runs the annual Munich Security Conference, for being prepared to co-moderate the 'round table', which Kiev says may start on Wednesday.
Kiev has declined to say which groups will join the talks but acting President Oleksander Turchinov has said "terrorists" - meaning the rebels - cannot take part. Moscow says the talks cannot succeed without direct dialogue between Kiev and the separatists.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown in Berlin; Editing by Annika Breidthardt and Madeline Chambers)