EU's top diplomat eyes sanction extension against Russia
The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expects the bloc to extend sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, according to remarks published Thursday by Die Welt daily.
Asked if the embargoes targeting Russia's oil, defence and banking sectors would be extended when they expire in July, Mogherini told the newspaper: "I expect them to be."
"The heads of state and governments had required that the sanctions be lifted when the Minsk agreement is fully implemented. But, that's something that we haven't achieved yet," she said, referring to a peace deal agreed in the Belarus capital between Kiev and Moscow.
The EU imposed the heavy penalties in the summer of 2014 against Russia, and they are due to expire at the end of July.
The bloc's leaders are however due to meet in June, when they are expected to make a decision on these sanctions.
Mogherini underlined the importance of implementing the Minsk deal.
"For a long time, we considered Russia as a strategic partner," she said, adding "that is no longer the case, although it remains a strategic country."
Whether or not Russia recovers its "partner" status would depend on the Russian government, as well as on the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, she said.
"It is decisive for us that the Minsk agreement is completely implemented and that the Ukraine conflict is peacefully resolved," she said.
Around 9,300 people have died and more than 21,000 been injured since the predominantly Russian-speaking regions revolted against Ukraine's new pro-Western government in April 2014.
A series of truce agreements have helped reduce the violence, although sporadic clashes continue and prevent the sides from reaching a firm political reconciliation deal.
France and Germany held a round of talks with Ukraine and Russia in Berlin last week as part of mediation efforts to try to seek a lasting peace deal but no consensus was reached over elections in the separatist regions.
© 2016 AFP