Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hollande, Merkel Urge More EU Anti-Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine
Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:28PM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande give a joint press conference on December 13, 2016 at the Chancellery in Berlin. (Photo by AFP)

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have voiced support for prolonging EU sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis, ahead of a Brussels summit on the issue.

"It will be necessary to extend sanctions against Russia once more," Merkel said during a joint press conference with Hollande as she pointed to what she described as “grave shortcomings” in the Ukraine truce agreement.

Concurring with Merkel regarding insufficient improvement in the implementation of the Minsk peace accord, Hollande further stated, "Since there hasn't been an effort made, no progress, and the same blockages remain, I, like the chancellor, am in favor of extending sanctions."

Russia argues that the Ukrainian government has not been fully implementing the truce deal, thus prompting pro-Russia forces seeking independence from Kiev in east of the country to retaliate.

The peace agreement was aimed at bringing an end to a conflict that has claimed 10,000 lives since 2014 as low-level skirmishes continue near the lines of battle.

Meanwhile in Brussels, a European official stated last week that Merkel and Hollande would urge EU leaders to extend the anti-Russia sanctions during the summit on Thursday.

"There appears to be consensus," said the official, adding that a formal deal to extend sanctions could be sealed in January. "But for some member states, it's important to listen to Merkel and Hollande first," he added.

Currently in force until January 31 of next year, the EU sanctions are the subject of debate among member states, with some pushing for their removal since Russia has imposed retaliatory measures targeting European farmers in particular.

Imposed in July 2014 following the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, the EU sanctions target the Russian energy, defense and finance sectors. 

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