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Germany renews push for Russia-Ukraine talks

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GEIR MOULSON | April 1, 2014 06:44 AM EST | AP

WEIMAR, Germany (AP) — Germany's foreign minister renewed a push for internationally backed direct talks between Russia and Ukraine as he consulted with his French and Polish counterparts Tuesday.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier pointed to "small signals of de-escalation" in the launch of an international observer mission in Ukraine and Russia's stated intention to pull a battalion from the Ukrainian border.

Poland's Radek Sikorski underlined Western suspicions by saying he hoped the withdrawal announcement wasn't linked to April Fools' Day.

The meeting in Weimar, Germany was part of a German-led effort to revive the so-called Weimar Triangle of western and eastern European powers set up in 1991.

"What will be important in the coming days is getting Russia and Ukraine around a table together," Steinmeier told reporters. He said an international framework "can be a contact group, it can be a support group."

Steinmeier added that "I don't see a way to membership in NATO" for Ukraine — something Russia strongly opposes.