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Ukraine Likely To Top Obama-Merkel Talks Agenda

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to discuss Ukraine amid an apparent disagreement between the two allies on how best to help the former Soviet republic, which has been in a prolonged battle with pro-Russia separatists.

Germany and other European countries are against arming Ukraine, while the U.S. position is less clear.

"I am convinced that this conflict won't be solved by military means," Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.


Also speaking in Munich, Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. will "continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the same conference, denied there was a disagreement over arms for Ukraine, and said discussions on sending arms were "tactical, not strategic."

When asked by NBC's Meet the Press whether the U.S. would send arms to Ukraine, he said: "I have no doubt that additional assistance of economic kind and other kinds will be going to Ukraine. And we do so understanding that there is no military solution. The solution is a political, diplomatic one. But President Putin's got to make the decision to take an off ramp. And we have to make it clear to him that we are absolutely committed to the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine no matter what."

Merkel was expected to brief Obama about talks in Belarus to restart talks for peace in Ukraine. As NPR's Scott Neuman reported Sunday, "If all goes to plan, Merkel will join Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and French President Francois Hollande in the capital of Belarus on Wednesday."

The conflict in Ukraine, which began last April, has killed more than 5,300 people; the fighting has spiked over the past two weeks.


Russia is under U.S. and EU sanctions for its role in the crisis, but that has not resulted in a let up in the fighting.

Merkel and Obama are also expected to discuss the threat posed by the self-described Islamic State, Iran's nuclear program and, possibly, the rift between the two countries caused by revelations that the National Security Agency tapped Merkel's phone.

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