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May 26, 2018

Merkel blasts breaches of Ukraine truce

Merkel blasts breaches of Ukraine truce
'German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the Peace Lamp of Saint Francis in the Italian town of Assisi' - By: AFP Andreas SOLARO

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said she was deeply concerned by repeated breaches of a ceasefire between government forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"Every night there are violations of the ceasefire and every day there are human casualties," Merkel said in the central Italian town of Assisi, where she received a prize for her efforts to promote peace.

"Ukraine concerns us and in the 'Normandy Format' -- which groups Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine -- we try to get the Minsk (ceasefire) accords respected," she said.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after mass protests ousted a pro-Russian government in Kiev, with more than 10,000 people dead so far despite repeated efforts to get successive ceasefires to stick, the last dating to the end of March.

Daughter of a Protestant pastor, Merkel was awarded the Peace Lamp of Saint Francis prize by Franciscan monks for "her work on reconciliation, promoting peaceful coexistence between peoples".

Merkel also spoke about the rising tensions between Iran and Israel in Syria, saying the situation had become worse since the US withdrawal this week from the Iran nuclear accord.

"We are following what's happening between Iran and Israel taking into consideration Germany's commitment to the security of Israel," she said.

She is scheduled to meet later with 300 young people from 37 countries including some refugees from Syria's civil war.

Others who have received the "Catholic Nobel" include Pope John-Paul II, Mother Teresa and Mikhail Gorbachev.

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