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Merkel to have quick meeting with Harper in Ottawa to brief him on Ukraine talks

OTTAWA — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Ottawa later today to give Prime Minister Stephen Harper an update on her frenzied transatlantic shuttle diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis.

Merkel will be in Washington earlier today for a previously scheduled meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, amid reports of a rift between the U.S. and Europe over whether to arm Ukraine’s military.

The Canadian Press has learned Merkel’s supper hour arrival in Ottawa for talks with Harper will allow the prime minister to receive a private briefing on the West’s renewed push to end the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military has been battling Russian-backed separatists since April in a conflict that the United Nations says has killed 5,300 people, a figure that has spiked in recent weeks.

Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke by telephone Sunday and are attempting to hold a summit this Wednesday in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

Merkel also travelled to Moscow on Friday to meet with Putin, amid reports the U.S. is considering arming Ukraine forces, which France and Germany oppose.

Harper has taken a harder line towards Putin than his fellow G7 leaders, and a senior government source says that’s not likely to change.

But the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, says Harper is eager to get an update from Merkel on the Ukraine-Russia standoff.

Merkel is expected to begin her return trip to Europe before the evening is out.

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