NEWPORT, United Kingdom: Ukraine yesterday raised hopes of a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels during a Nato summit where Britain and the United States urged the international community to stand up to Russia and counter the threat from Islamic State.
President Petro Poroshenko briefed leaders, including US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said he expected a deal to be signed today “for the gradual introduction of the Ukrainian peace plan”.
The separatist administrations in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine also said they were ready to issue a ceasefire order if the Kremlin-backed peace plan is signed, but the reaction in Newport in Wales was cautious.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on the sidelines of the meetings that “small confidence or optimism is growing that we are maybe on the way towards the de-escalation of the conflict”.
President Francois Hollande called for a “real ceasefire” that would lead to a broader political agreement and said France would only deliver warships worth ¤1.2bn to Russia if these conditions were in place.
As the summit billed by Nato as one of its most important since the Cold War continued, AFP reporters heard explosions on the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Mariupol where Ukrainian officials said they had repelled a rebel tank attack.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also lashed out after British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama argued in an article in the Times newspaper that Russia had “ripped up the rulebook” over Ukraine. Lavrov denied Russian military involvement and accused the United States of undermining peace efforts by supporting “a pro-war party” in Kiev.
He said Washington was “drunk on anti-Russian rhetoric” after repeated accusations from the West that Russia is training and supplying rebels and sending its soldiers into Ukraine.
The summit is expected to create trust funds for Ukraine’s military, set up new high-readiness units and position troops and equipment in former Soviet bloc Nato members unnerved by Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
Ukraine tops the agenda at the two-day talks, but the 28 Nato leaders must also tackle the menace of Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria and a problematic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Cameron and Obama said they would not be “cowed” following the beheading of two US journalists by Islamic State jihadists and promised to “confront” the radicals. Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said the alliance would “seriously” examine any request from Iraq for help in its campaign against the Islamic State, while Cameron said Britain was actively considering arming the Kurds.