PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Kiev on Thursday and Moscow on Friday for top level talks to make a new proposal to try to solve the Ukraine crisis, Hollande said on Thursday.
He said the trip aimed to broker a deal acceptable to all parties after previous attempts to find a diplomatic solution failed and as violence in Ukraine escalates, with a mounting civilian and military death toll.
“Together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” Hollande told a news conference. “We will make a new proposal to solve the conflict which will be based on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
Berlin and Moscow confirmed the talks. A spokesman for Putin said that negotiations would aim to discuss “what concrete steps the three states (could) take to bring about a rapid halt to the civil war in southern Ukraine”.
Despite an escalation of EU and U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow, violence between Ukrainian soldiers and separatists has worsened.
Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past 24 hours, a Ukraine military spokesman said, while as many as 10 people were killed on Wednesday in shelling near a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
France and Germany have so far stopped short of agreeing to supply lethal weapons to the Ukrainian army, which has come under fire from heavier munitions in recent days.
Hollande said, however, that diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis had their limits.
“Now we are in a war, and in a war that can be a total war,” Hollande said.
“There are two options: either we start thinking that we should arm the protagonists... Or there is another option which is that of diplomacy and negotiation. It (negotiation) cannot continue indefinitely.”
Reporting Ingrid Melander and Nick Vinocur in Paris, Stephen Brown in Berlin, Tim Heritage in Moscow; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by James Regan