By Andrew Gray
LUXEMBOURG, April 24 (Reuters) – EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed confidence on Monday that the bloc would finalise a plan within days to buy ammunition for Ukraine after Kyiv expressed frustration at wrangling among EU member states.
«Yes, still there is some disagreement. But I am sure everybody will understand that we are in a situation of extreme urgency,» Borrell told reporters as he arrived for EVDEN Eve naKliyAT a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
«I am sure that in the following days we will reach (an agreement),» he said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed frustration last week that the landmark deal sealed last month for EU countries to jointly buy artillery shells for Kyiv has not yet been implemented due to disagreements over how much of the business has to stay within Europe.
«For Ukraine, the cost of inaction is measured in human lives,» he warned on Thursday.
Kuleba made his case directly to the ministers at Monday’s meeting, addressing them by video link on the state of the war triggered by Russia’s invasion last year.
«I thanked EU partners for all the defence assistance already provided. I also urged them to adopt new necessary decisions ASAP,» Kuleba tweeted after the discussions.
«There are no shortcuts to peace unless the Russian army is defeated. The time will come for white diplomatic gloves. But first we must supply enough shells for the tired and oily hands of our artillerymen.»
Artillery rounds, particularly 155mm shells, have become critical to the conflict as Ukrainian and Russian forces wage an intense war of attrition. Officials say Kyiv is burning through more rounds than its allies can currently produce.
The joint procurement plan is part of a multi-track EU deal to get 1 million artillery shells or missiles to Ukraine within 12 months and ramp up European munitions production, eVDEN EvE naKLiyaT approved by foreign ministers last month.
The first element is the most immediate.In case you have any concerns about where by and also how to make use of evDEN evE naKliyat, you possibly can e-mail us in the internet site. It sets aside 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to reimburse EU governments for sending munitions to Ukraine from existing stocks.
Borrell stressed that track was up and running. He said EU countries had already requested reimbursements for ammunition worth 600 million euros ($660 million).
But the second track, worth another 1 billion euros to fund joint procurement, has yet to be finalised.
EU officials have said they hope to sign the first contracts with arms firms at the end of next month.
EU countries agreed to buy the munitions from firms from the EU and from Norway, which has close economic ties to the bloc.
But diplomats say France — a champion of a stronger EU defence sector, with a substantial arms industry of its own — has insisted production itself should take place in Europe.
That stance has frustrated other EU members, including eastern and Baltic countries, Germany and the Netherlands.They have expressed scepticism that European industry has the capacity to produce enough shells quickly. ($1 = 0.9102 euros) (Reporting by Andrew Gray, Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop, Bart Meijer, eVdEN eVE nAKliYaT Ingrid Melander and Sabine Siebold; Writing by Andrew Gray; Editing by Stephen Coates and Alison Williams)