By Justin Sink - 07/18/14 08:17 AM EDT
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday it was too soon to move on tougher sanctions against Russia after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
"Regarding sanctions, I'd like to point out that the events with the plane, as far as I remember, were not even 24 hours ago, and at the moment we need to sort out an independent investigation,” the German leader said, according to Reuters. “So it's perhaps premature to draw conclusions before we have access to the remains of the plane.”
But Merkel also said early evidence suggested the plane had been shot down and that Russia bears at at least culpability in the incident, which some are blaming on Moscow-back separatists operating in Eastern Ukraine.
"I can see no other way than to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin," she added. "There are difficulties in the partnership, which we have to overcome."
The White House has stopped short of directly accusing the pro-Russian militants of responsibility, although a U.S. official said Thursday that early evidence indicated the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the incident “occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists.”
On Friday, President Obama will meet in the Oval Office with Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the two administration officials who have played a central role in the development of sanctions toward Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Merkel, speaking at a press conference, echoed Obama’s call for an immediate ceasefire to allow investigators access to the crash site.
"What is important now is for an independent investigation to take place as soon as possible," Merkel said. "For that, a ceasefire is needed, and then it is of course crucial for those responsible to be brought to justice."