EU agrees in principle to prolong Russia sanctions

Published: June 21, 2016 1:42 PM EDT
Updated: June 21, 2016 4:02 PM EDT

BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union nations have agreed in principle to extend sanctions against Russia for six more months to keep pressure on Moscow to respect the peace agreement in Ukraine.

EU diplomats confirmed Tuesday that the 28-nation bloc’s ambassadors had agreed to prolong the sanctions, imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

However, at least one country must first have the move endorsed by its parliament, so it cannot go ahead until that is done, probably by the end of next week, the diplomats said.

Some nations want the measures discussed at a summit of EU leaders.

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that sanctions would be maintained for now, but could be gradually lifted if further progress is made on a peace deal for Ukraine.

He spoke after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Paris.

Germany and Italy have been lobbying for the sanctions to be lifted and the French Senate earlier this month voted to urge the government to “gradually and partially” lift the sanctions. The vote was nonbinding, but revealed the European frustration with the sanctions, which target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors as well as some dual-use goods.

In retaliation, Russia has moved to ban all vegetable, dairy and meat exports from the EU.

European oil, auto and food companies have suffered from the sanctions. Several pro-Russia lawmakers in the French parliament, mainly in the conservative Republican party, have complained that the sanctions are hurting the French economy.

In Germany, Russia’s biggest trading partner before the sanctions, businessmen are anxious for measures to be lifted.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union’s executive Commission, said last week during a visit to Russia that the EU needs to engage with Russia despite the sanctions.

However, he made a point of confirming the EU’s stance that it does not accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea and insisted the Minsk peace accord for Ukraine needs to be fulfilled for the sanctions to be lifted.