New German defence minister to travel to Ukraine soon, Bild am Sonntag reports

Defence ministers hold meeting on Ukraine crisis at Ramstein Air Base
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius meets with other ministers of defence to discuss how to help Ukraine defend itself, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

FRANKFURT, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Germany's new defence minister Boris Pistorius plans to visit Ukraine soon, he told a German newspaper, as Berlin faces pressure to allow the shipment of German-made tanks to Ukraine.

"What is certain is that I will travel to Ukraine quickly. Probably even within the next four weeks," Pistorius told Bild am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday.

On Friday, Germany and Western allies reached no decision on whether Germany would agree to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, or permit other countries that have them to do so, despite Ukraine's pleas for modern tanks to boost its defence efforts.

Asked about the tanks, Pistorius said in the interview: "We are in very close dialogue with our international partners, first and foremost with the U.S., on this issue."

German sources have told Reuters they would allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the United States agrees to send its own tanks. But U.S. officials have said President Joe Biden's administration is not poised to send its own tanks, including the M1 Abrams.

Pistorius became defence minister last week, months into Germany's "Zeitenwende" - or new era of a more assertive foreign policy backed by more military spending - that Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Feb. 27, days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Pistorius also told Bild am Sonntag he would aim for Germany's military to take the lead role in the European Union.

"Germany is the largest economy in Europe, so it should also be our goal to have the strongest and best-equipped army in the EU," he told the paper.

Reporting by Tom Sims; Editing by David Holmes

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