EU poised for fresh Russia sanctions over Ukraine
European Union foreign ministers will discuss Monday hitting Russia with fresh sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, but they must keep the door open to Moscow, new foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said.
The ministers met in Brussels against a backdrop of fresh fighting in eastern Ukraine despite a September ceasefire between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels, who also angered the west by holding elections on November 2.
"We will for sure discuss sanctions," said Mogherini as she arrived to meet Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin before chairing her first regular meeting of foreign ministers from the 28 EU nations.
"But sanctions in themselves are not an objective.
They can be an instrument if they come together with other measures," she said.
The EU had to find a "a complete strategy" which included pushing Ukraine to adopt reforms, especially on restrcturing "civilian security", Mogherini said.
They would also discuss "how to relaunch or how to engage in a dialogue with Russia as European Union", she added.
The EU talks come on the heels of a glacial G20 summit in Brisbane that highlighted the deep rift between the West and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sanctions to be discussed Monday would most likely be limited to adding individuals to the list of those already hit with travel bans and asset freezes, rather than wider economic measures, ministers said.
"We are ready to support these sanctions to physical persons and this will probably be one of the main points on the agenda," Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters.
He said wider sanctions would most likely be considered by EU leaders at a summit in December.
Lithuania's Linas Linkevicus said the situation in Ukraine was "really alarming", because of the separatist elections and Russia "still keeping troops on the territory of Ukraine".
"Targeted sanctions against individuals, it's a must, I believe, because they're working, they have effect, in spite of some denials," he said.
EU diplomatic sources said last week Mogherini wanted to find a way of getting Moscow to live up to commitments made when it backed the September peace accord reached between Kiev and the pro-Moscow rebels.
Among other things, she had asked ministers whether they wanted her to pursue "outreach efforts," perhaps including going to see Putin, the sources said.
There were deep divisions within the EU's member states on the initial sanctions against Russia but it took a harder stance after the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines plane in July, blamed on rebels using a Russian-made missile.
© 2014 AFP