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Foreign minister pledges support in Ukraine

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Foreign minister pledges support in Ukraine
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo pictured during a visit to the Dominican Republic in December 2014. Photo: Erika Santelices/AFP
11:42 CET+01:00
Spain's foreign minister is en route to Kiev to show support for Ukraine as Spain commits to leading a new rapid action Nato force.

José Manual Garcia-Margallo, who is travelling to Ukraine along with a delegation of Spanish businesses, will open an economic forum with the aim of encouraging commercial investment between Spanish and Ukrainian companies.

The delegation is particularly interested in forging partnerships in the strategic areas of energy, transport and infrastructure, according to a statement from Spain’s foreign ministry.

Margallo’s visit comes in the wake of news that Spain is to lead a new Nato rapid action force to deal with military crises, organized in response to the growing military threat in Ukraine.

Spain will supply 4,000 of the 5,000-strong force, which will be the first to respond to volatile situations.

"Nato needs to have a unit that will show the world that its reaction can be strong and immediate," said Spanish defence minister, Pedro Morenés, quoted in Spanish daily, El País.

Meanwhile, Spain’s foreign minister will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, with whom he will discuss the current situation in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army has intensified after separatists launched a bid to capture the strategic city of Debaltseve.

If the separatists manage to capture the city, it will allow them to establish a train link between the two rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Margallo’s visit to Ukraine will come after a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss how the European Union should respond to the escalation of fighting in the region.

France’s president, François Hollande and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel are calling for a four-way emergency Ukraine summit on in Minsk on Wednesday, between them , Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko has recently called on the international community to provide weapons to aid in Ukraine’s fight against Russian separatists.

Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, Spain has been firmly behind a "long-lasting and definitive" political solution that respects international law and the principles of sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, according to Catalan daily, La Vanguardia.

The EU has suffered 21 billion euros in lost exports as a result of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, Spain's foreign minister said Monday as he met his counterparts to discuss further measures.

"Sanctions have had a heavy cost for us all, the EU has so far lost €21 billion ($23.7 billion). In Spain we have been badly hit in terms of agriculture and tourism," said Margallo, giving the first figure of its kind for the EU.

The European Union has become increasingly divided over the tough economic sanctions that it has progressively imposed on Russia since July, with some member states fearing for their trade ties with Moscow.

Exports for the 28-nation bloc to Russia in 2013 amounted to €119 billion, according to EU figures.

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