BERLIN - Germany's foreign minister warned Sunday that direct military clashes between Russia and Ukraine must be avoided at all cost, ahead of a crisis meeting on the conflict in the former Soviet state.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said all sides must be "very careful ... about sliding ever deeper into a direct confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian armed forces".
"This must be avoided at all cost," said Steinmeier before the talks in Berlin with his counterparts from Moscow, Kiev and Paris.
"There are no guarantees that today's talks will lead to the success we desire," he added.
"But I can also say that - in view of the situation of today and the past few days, and given the willingness to talk signalled by all sides -- ... it would be irresponsible ... not to take advantage of this willingness to talk."
The focus of the meeting with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Laurent Fabius of France is set to be longer-term than questions about the controversial humanitarian convoy from Russia.
The question would be "whether there is a path toward a ceasefire that is realistic and resilient, and that offers us hope of ending the violence," Steinmeier said.
This would include tightening the Russia-Ukraine border "to rule out that in future more material, weapons and fighters" can cross it into eastern Ukraine.
"We need a durable solution ... this evening we will try to formulate steps toward it," he said, adding that he hoped that all participants will "constructively play their part".