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Obama and Merkel urge new Ukraine peace talks

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has consulted with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl) about how to get peace talks in Ukraine back on track.

Merkel and Obama spoke by phone on Thursday about the situation in eastern Ukraine. The White House says they discussed diplomatic efforts to bring about a lasting ceasefire. A previous ceasefire declared unilaterally by Ukraine's president expired after separatists violated it repeatedly.

The White House says the leaders agreed that the U.S. and Europe should levy further costs on Russia if it doesn't de-escalate the situation quickly. They also discussed ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Merkel has been a prime interlocutor with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Ukraine crisis. She spoke to Putin Thursday as diplomats urge new peace talks to start no later than Saturday.

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