Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper repeat desire for diplomatic solution in Ukraine
German chancellor met with Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., earlier Monday
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Stephen Harper met in Ottawa today to discuss the Ukraine crisis ahead of a proposed summit this week and June's G7 meeting south of Munich.
Ukraine's military has been battling Russian-backed separatists since April in a conflict that the United Nations says has killed 5,300 people, a figure that has spiked in recent weeks.
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Harper has taken a harder line toward Russian President Vladimir Putin than his fellow G7 leaders, and on Monday said he continues to prefer a diplomatic solution to what he called the "illegal occupation" by Russia.
"Unfortunately, to this point in time Putin has rejected diplomatic means, he seeks to move his agenda forward through military violence," he said.
"We have provided a whole range of aid to our friends in Ukraine … we'll look at all options, but obviously we'll proceed extremely cautiously in partnership and in collaboration with all of our allies."
Canada has sent around $66 million worth of non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military, including winter gear and night-vision equipment.
Harper said he and Merkel discussed military involvement against ISIS in Iraq and economic issues ahead of the next G7 meeting set for June 7-8 in Schloss Elmau, Germany,
Merkel said in German that Germany and Canada have worked very well together on the issue and she's grateful Canada and the United States are supportive of the push for a diplomatic solution.
She is expected to begin her return trip to Europe later tonight.
Merkel, Obama meet earlier
Merkel was in Washington earlier Monday for a previously scheduled meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, amid reports of a rift between the U.S. and Europe over whether to arm Ukraine's military.
Obama held open the prospect that if a new round of diplomacy this week fails, the U.S. could send Ukraine's beleaguered military defensive weaponry.
The president said that while he has yet to make a decision on lethal aid, his team is considering "whether there are additional things we can do to help Ukraine bolster its defences in the face of Russian aggression."
Merkel and other European leaders staunchly oppose arming Ukraine, in part out of fear of sparking a proxy war with Russia.
The U.S. and Europe have largely been in agreement on their response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, raising the prospect that a public split over lethal aid is a tactic to push Putin to agree to a peace plan.
During a joint White House news conference with Obama, Merkel reaffirmed that she sees no military solution to the fighting in eastern Ukraine. However, she added that no matter what Obama decides, "the alliance between the United states and Europe will continue to stand, will continue to be solid."
Merkel, Putin, French President François Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke by telephone Sunday and are attempting to hold a summit this Wednesday in the Belarus capital of Minsk.
With files from The Associated Press