Merkel: Germany won't give weapons to Ukraine, favors talks

Merkel: Germany won't give weapons to Ukraine, favors talks

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Germany will not give weapons to Ukraine and supports negotiations and a diplomatic solution to that government's conflict with Russian-backed rebels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday.

"It is my firm belief that this conflict cannot be solved militarily," Merkel said after meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest.

Merkel said she prefers the pressure exerted by European Union economic sanctions on Russia and negotiations to "solve or at least mitigate the conflict."

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,100 lives and displaced 900,000 people since it began in April.

Orban, who has frequently noted the damage to Hungarian exports caused by the EU sanctions against Russia, said Hungary also backs a peaceful solution and will not provide any weapons to Ukraine. He also mentioned Hungary's great dependency on Russian energy supplies that arrive through Ukrainian pipelines.

Merkel, making her first visit to Hungary since 2009, noted complaints by German companies about the difficulties of long-term planning due to the Orban government's habit of quick, radical changes to the tax structure.

"Wherever the German economy is present, it values trustworthy, predictable conditions," Merkel said.

German companies in Hungary, which have 280,000 employees, have been hit hard by special taxes on the banking, retail, communications and other sectors. Hungary's new truck tracking system, meant to crack down on tax fraud, has also been criticized by German companies as increasing bureaucracy.

Merkel also said she had discussed "the characteristics of democracy" with Orban, who last year was widely rebuked after saying he wanted to transform Hungary from a democracy into an "illiberal state."

"The roots of democracy have always been in liberalism," Merkel said.

Orban disagreed.

"We don't believe that every democracy is necessarily liberal," he said.

In a report Monday, Amnesty International said police raids and "undue audits" by Hungarian authorities against some civic groups "have put at risk the exercise of the rights to freedom of association and expression."

Merkel also visited the Dohany Street Synagogue and a Holocaust memorial, meeting with leaders from Hungary's Jewish community.

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