Sanctions linked to Minsk deal implementation: EU
Updated: 2015-03-20 09:19
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) listens to French President Francois Hollande during a joint news conference after talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris February 20, 2015. France and Germany are more convinced than ever that the Minsk agreements aimed at resolving an ongoing crisis in Ukraine should be fully implemented and a ceasefire observed, French President Hollande said. [Photo/Agencies]
BRUSSELS - The EU's sanctions policy against Russia over the Ukraine crisis would be linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreement till the end of 2015, European leaders agreed on Thursday.
"Leaders decided to align our sanctions regime to the implementation of the Minsk agreements brokered by (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel and (French) President (Francois) Hollande," European Council President Donald Tusk told a press conference following the first day of the EU's spring summit.
He said the European Council agreed that the duration of economic sanctions will be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, bearing in mind that this is only foreseen by the end of 2015.
"Additionally, the European Council stands ready to take further decisions if necessary," he added.
On March 17, 2014, the EU imposed the first travel bans and asset freezes against Russian and Ukrainian officials following the annexation of Crimea.
Moreover, following the shooting down of flight MH17, the EU in last July imposed economic sanctions on Russia. A new package of restrictive measures targeting exchanges with Russia in specific economic sectors entered into force last September, reinforcing the measures adopted last July.
Last Friday, the EU announced to extend by six months until this September the asset freezes and visa bans on 150 persons and 37 entities, which were considered to have taken action against Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
European leaders convened to discuss whether to prolong the sanctions policy at this summit considering all tiers of current sanctions on Russia will expire in July or September.
"One of the best ways of supporting Ukraine will be through upholding the sanctions pressure on Russia until we witness a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements," Tusk said before the summit, on which he mentioned he, Merkel and Hollande had common intentions.
Tusk also noted the EU will continue to support Ukraine's internal reform program, including financially.