Minsk accord must be met to end Russia sanctions: Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Russia must adhere to all points of last year's Minsk agreement for a Ukraine truce before European sanctions against Moscow can be lifted.
"I think we need to see the entire Minsk agreement implemented before we can say that sanctions will be lifted," Merkel said at joint press conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Berlin.
The German leader's comments contrasted with those of some members of her ruling coalition and of European leaders including French President Francois Hollande that suggested sanctions against economically-ailing Russia could soon be eased.
Merkel also said plans for a four-way summit in Kazakhstan on January 15 between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France were still subject to preliminary talks between their foreign ministers.
"The talks in coming days will show whether we're ready for such a meeting," she said about her planned Astana gathering with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Hollande.
Merkel, who has frequently discussed the conflict with Putin, stressed that "the implementation of sanctions had certain causes, and these sanctions can only be lifted when the causes are eliminated again".
She said some sanctions followed Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea -- an issue where she saw "little hope at the moment" -- while other punitive measures were "implemented in the context of the interventions in eastern Ukraine".
Therefore, she said, the key to ending sanctions would be to meet not just some but all the points of the Minsk agreement struck in September between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed militias.
Under the deal, both sides agreed to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of "illegal armed groups, military hardware, and all fighters and mercenaries" from Ukraine.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of supplying the insurgents with heavy weapons and Russian army units. The Kremlin denies this and blames Kiev's forces of opening indiscriminate rocket fire on densely populated districts and committing other war crimes.
The United Nations estimates that more than 4,700 people have died and around a million have been displaced by the rebel uprising that erupted in April.
© 2015 AFP