Hollande, Merkel head to Kiev, Moscow for crisis talks

'France does not want Ukraine to be part of NATO,' declares French president

'France does not want Ukraine to be part of NATO,' declares French president

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande has announced that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to travel to Kiev and Moscow in a bid to resolve the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, declaring: "France does not want Ukraine to be part of NATO."

Speaking at a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday, Hollande said they would travel to the Ukrainian capital on Thursday and Russia on Friday.

Asked if France will take part of the ongoing "war" in Ukraine, Hollande responded: "France is not part of the ongoing war in Ukraine - and won't be."

Hollande stated France was not at war with Russia and would not discuss sending arms to Ukraine, declaring: "France does not want Ukraine to be part of NATO."

- 'Strong responsibilities'

He said: "We look for a deal that satisfies all parts. If we fail, France and Germany have done all that they could do."

"We have strong responsibilities. France must always be on the initiative."

Hollande and Merkel will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking at the fifth semestrial press conference of his five-year term, Hollande said: "Either we enter in the logic of arming the protagonists, or we choose the option of diplomacy."

"However, negotiations can't be extended indefinitely."

- 'Escalation of violence'

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a written statement: "German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande are strengthening their efforts for a peaceful solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine,  amid an escalation of violence in recent days."

At least 35 people were killed in ongoing clashes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday in an escalation of the conflict, according to UN officials.

The UN said in statement that at least 42 attacks had been carried out in the towns of Debaltseve, Troitskoe, Redkodub, Sanzharovka, Chernukhina, Zolotoe and Novogrigorovka in eastern Ukraine by separatists.

More than 5,300 people have been killed and 12,200 others injured in eastern Ukraine since mid-April last year in the ongoing conflict, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

* Additional reporting by Ayhan Simsek

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