Zelensky in Berlin, Paris for security pacts

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky travels Friday to Berlin and Paris where he is due to sign security deals with the two European giants and seek further support for Kiev’s battle against Russia.

With the war in Ukraine about to enter its third year, Zelensky will also bring his plea for sustained help on financing and armaments to the Munich Security Conference, where leaders including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris are due to gather.

Zelensky’s European tour comes at a critical time for Ukrainian troops, who are facing an increasingly difficult situation on the eastern frontlines because of ammunition shortages and fresh Russian attacks.

The long-term future of billions of dollars of Western aid is in doubt, with the biggest contributor, the United States, in the throes of an election year.

A possible $60-billion package of military aid has been held up in Washington since last year because of wrangling in Congress.

The EU has also admitted that it will only be able to make good on half of the one million artillery shells it promised to send by March.

During his tour of Europe’s heavyweights, Germany and France, Zelensky will seek to lock down security guarantees for his country when the war is over.

The German government said that Chancellor Olaf Scholz would on Friday sign a bilateral security pact that covered Ukraine’s “long-term security commitments and support”.

The Elysee also confirmed that a security agreement would be signed with Ukraine on Friday, but did not provide any specifics on its content.

 Mideast crisis 

Plans by the G7 nations to provide Ukraine with long-term security support were made on the sidelines of the NATO summit last July, when leaders of the alliance failed to set a timetable for Ukraine to join the bloc.

A first agreement had been signed with Britain in January, during British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Kiev.

But more immediately, Zelensky will seek to shake off any war fatigue besetting his allies.

Besides meeting Harris on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich conference, talks are also planned with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

While Ukraine was once the main conflict on the minds of world leaders, Israel’s war on Hamas and the ensuing escalating crisis in the Middle East now also require urgent attention.

Both conflicts will dominate the Munich conference, both on and off stage.

Israel’s President Issac Herzog, Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Jordan’s King Abdullah II count among 180 dignitaries at the conference.

The U.S. and a small group of Middle Eastern nations could use the opportunity to float their ideas for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians with European counterparts on the sidelines, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Mediators are also currently racing to secure a truce on the ground and the release of hostages before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into the Gaza Strip’s far-southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped.

In another closely watched encounter, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

The tone of the talks could offer a hint into the current mood between China and the United States, after an extremely fraught period over a host of issues from tensions over Taiwan to trade and human rights problems.

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