German Chancellor Angela Merkel says a German-French initiative to stop deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine is aimed at defending peace all over Europe.

“It’s about representing our interests – German-French – but also European interests…. It’s about European peace… and the free self-determination of peoples, which is part of this European framework for peace,” Merkel said in a press conference in the German capital city of Berlin on Friday.

“We are convinced that there’s no military solution to this conflict.… But we also know that it’s completely open whether we will manage to achieve a ceasefire with these talks. We don’t know if this will happen today or whether further talks are necessary, whether these will be long or short talks in Moscow,” she added.

Merkel and France’s President Francois Hollande held talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Thursday and are scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday in a bid to seek a peaceful solution to the surging conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Source of conflict

Kiev-Moscow relations have been extremely tense in recent months. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse the Kremlin of supporting pro-Russia forces in east Ukraine, saying Russia’s military presence in Ukraine poses a security threat to all other neighbouring states. Russia categorically denies the allegations.

The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014 in a bid to crush the pro-Russians.

Violence intensified in May 2014 after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.

The fighting has left more than 5,300 people killed and 1.5 million displaced, the United Nations says.