By Raf Casert Associated Press
The European Union's foreign policy chief on Friday came out against a bipartisan call in the United States to provide lethal, defensive weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.
House Speaker John Boehner and a group of top Democrats and Republicans wrote to President Obama calling for deliveries but so far have found few backers in the 28-nation EU.
Federica Mogherini said Friday that "the European Union is doing enough" and insisted that the implementation of the peace deal brokered in Minsk last month "is the way to go forward."
To boost the implementation of the Minsk agreement, the EU is now looking at doubling the number of observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe from the current ceiling of 500.
So far however, the OSCE has been struggling to even fill those spots.
"The main point is obviously working to increase the number of selected and skilled people that can do the job," Mogherini said. The more observers the tougher it would become to violate the conditions of the Minsk agreement with impunity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been particularly outspoken against pouring more firepower into the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the West has accused Moscow of throwing in military manpower and equipment.
On Friday, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said arms deliveries "would only stoke the fire."
"Our goal must be a ceasefire, not an escalation," Kurz said.
All EU ministers agreed though that if the Minsk agreement would be violated in a major way, more sanctions would be on the way. So far, the EU has imposed selected economic sanctions and asset freezes and visa bans.
"If there is a serious deterioration in the situation in eastern Ukraine and the Minsk agreements are going to be violated, then of course, the EU is prepared to take further sanctions," said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, the host of the EU meeting.
The U.S. lawmakers insisted the so-called Minsk agreements have only consolidated Russian and separatists' gains, and urged quick approval of additional efforts to support Ukraine. They said the EU was far too slow and meek in its reaction to the crisis.
Boehner and others found the EU approach insufficient, especially for a conflict happening on its doorstep, as they urged Obama "to lead Europe" in challenging Putin.
Britain on Friday continued its policy of providing non-lethal defense assistance to Ukraine as the EU continues to look for a political solution, approving 850,000 pounds ($1.29 million) for first aid kits, night vision goggles, helmets and other equipment.
"Our overall aim is to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need," said British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.