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Obama Stresses Unity as Allies Push for Ukraine Deal

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President Barack Obama said Monday that he has not made a decision yet about whether to send lethal aid to Ukraine but emphasized that Russian aggression in the region “has only reinforced the unity” of the United States with its western allies.

“We continue to encourage a diplomatic resolution to this issue and as diplomatic efforts continue this week, we are in absolute agreement that the 21st century cannot stand idle and simply allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun,” Obama said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel has argued that the United States would upend the ongoing talks between Western allies and Russian President Vladimir Putin if it sends defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Asked about the prospect of weapons being sent to Ukraine, Obama said that he and Merkel agree that “the prospect for a military solution to this problem has always been low.” But he suggested that, if diplomatic efforts this week disintegrate, he remains open to offering lethal aid to Ukrainian troops against separatists that the West alleges are being supported by Russia.

“It is true that if in fact diplomacy fails, what I have asked my team to do is to look at all options –- what other means can we put in place to change Mr Putin’s calculus. And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined,” he said. “But I have not made a decision about that yet.”

And he suggested that no "specific point" would tip him towards sending weapons to Ukraine but that such a decision would be the result of "ongoing analysis."

Merkel acknowledged that negotiators have faced some setbacks in their efforts to cut a deal with Putin.

"If at a certain point in time one has to say that success is not possible, even if one puts every effort into it, then the United States and Europe have to sit together and try and explore further possibilities of what one can do,'' she said.

“There may be some areas where there are tactical disagreements,” Obama added. “There may not be. But the broad principle that we have to stand up for not just Ukraine but the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty is one where we are completely unified."

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that there is “no doubt” that the United States will send “additional assistance of the economic kind and other kinds” to Ukraine but did not further explain what U.S. aid might look like.

Leaders from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia are scheduled to meet Wednesday in Minsk, Belarus, to continue the peace negotiations.

- Carrie Dann

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