German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday January 18th urged both Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine and said France and Germany were ready to help by monitoring naval traffic near the Crimean coast.
After a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, Maas again called on Moscow to release of the crews of three Ukrainian navy vessels it seized in November off Crimea. He said Russia must allow ships to pass through the Kerch Strait that leads to the Sea of Azov.
Maas said, “All sides must contribute to the de-escalation of the conflicts.”
Klimkin welcomed the offer to monitor shipping traffic through the Kerch Strait. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin had agreed to a proposal by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for German experts to monitor the strait a month ago, but they had still not arrived.
Meanwhile, Maas said Lavrov had renewed Moscow’s pledge to continue shipments of natural gas through Ukraine despite work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
Russian gas giant Gazprom is building the project jointly with Western partners Uniper, Wintershall, Engie, OMV and Shell.