EU to expand Ukraine sanctions blacklist: France

29th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

The EU will target new individuals with sanctions over their involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, France said Thursday as the 28-nation bloc's foreign ministers met to discuss fresh measures against Russia.

"We will show the EU's very strong unity and take all necessary steps, including extending and expanding the individual sanctions, in order to secure a return to a negotiated solution," France's European affairs minister Harlem Desir told reporters in Brussels.

"We are going to reinforce the sanctions that target the separatists and those who support them, including in Russia."

EU leaders called the meeting on Tuesday, instructing foreign ministers to weigh further sanctions following deadly fighting in the key port city of Mariupol between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed rebels.

Europe first imposed sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, and strengthened them after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July.

But Greece's new government has so far refused to approve a draft statement, seen by AFP, which also recommends extension of general sanctions until September and work on new economic measures, diplomatic sources said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier raised doubts about whether new sanctions would be agreed.

"The new position of the Greek government will not make the debate today easier," Steinmeier said. "That is why I cannot give you a prediction, where we are going to be at the end."

New Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said as he arrived for the talks that he was "working for the preventing (of a) rift between European Union and Russia" but would not say if he backed new sanctions.

European capitals reacted with alarm this week after Greece's new leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras complained that an EU leaders' statement on sanctions this week was issued without his consent.

Tsipras's radical left Syriza party has been seen as pro-Russian, and Russia's ambassador to Athens was the first to meet him after his election victory.

© 2015 AFP

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