MILAN — The Russian and Ukraine leaders met face-to-face Friday on a Ukraine peace deal, but despite signs of progress German Chancellor Angela Merkel said no breakthrough was in sight.
European leaders who joined Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a meeting over breakfast said they agreed to pursue deals on enforcing a cease-fire, border controls and elections. But details on implementation still needed to be hammered out.
"We are closer together on some questions of detail, but the central point is whether the territorial integrity of Ukraine is really respected," Merkel said after a morning of talks, adding that elections in eastern Ukraine that comply with Ukrainian law must also take place.
The Russian, Ukrainian, German and French leaders were meeting again in the afternoon, with discussions also focusing on gas deliveries from Russia via Ukraine. Europe is concerned that a pricing dispute between Ukraine and Russia could prompt Russia to once again cut off the flow of gas to Europe during the harsh winter months.
On the Ukraine peace deal, one proposal under discussion was to deploy monitoring drones to control the border areas.
British Prime Minister David Cameron indicated progress in the talks but said Russia needed to get its troops and heavy weapons out of Ukraine.
"Vladimir Putin said very clearly that he doesn't want a frozen conflict, he doesn't want a divided Ukraine," Cameron said. "If that is the case, Russia has to take actions to put in place all that has been agreed."
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi also said he was "positive" following the nearly two-hour meeting.
"We cannot accept an unstable Ukraine, and so we will do all in our power to give back hope to Ukraine," Renzi told reporters.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the talks were difficult but constructive and Putin may also meet one-on-one with Poroshenko later in the day.
Putin and Poroshenko were pictured shaking hands, as they had a month ago in Minsk, Belarus, when they reached a deal on a cease-fire that has reduced but not halted the hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
"It was a good meeting," Putin said on arrival at the wider ASEM summit of more than 50 European and Asian countries in Milan.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and government troops began a month after Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.