World Bulletin / News Desk
The European Union delayed putting more Ukrainian separatists and Russians on its sanctions list on Monday to give a Franco-German peace plan for Ukraine time to work.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany will meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday to try to broker a new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
To encourage the process while maintaining leverage, EU foreign ministers adopted asset freezes and visa bans on 19 Ukrainian separatists and Russians and nine organisations, but said they would not take effect until Feb. 16.
"The principle of these sanctions remains but the implementation will depend on results on the ground," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.
The addition of new names to the sanctions list could be annulled if things go well in Minsk.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the decision to delay enforcing the sanctions followed several meetings and phone calls she had had with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the last few days "to understand what kind of space is needed to allow the negotiations to have the maximum chances of success."
The EU's decision required a two-hour debate with some ministers calling for immediate implementation of the sanctions and other arguing for a delay, EU diplomats said.
The list targets 14 separatists and five Russians while only one Russian organisation was among the nine targeted. The names were kept secret for now, but diplomatic sources said they included Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov.
There was no discussion of lifting any other sanctions if Minsk goes well, diplomats said.
A peace deal would come as a relief to many EU countries that would rather avoid tightening sanctions on Russia, the EU's largest energy supplier, and harming their own economies.
Moscow's retaliatory ban on most Western food imports, the Ukraine crisis has cost the European Union 21 billion euros ($23.68 billion) in lost exports, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.
Germany Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters he hoped the Minsk meeting would lead to "first steps ... towards a ceasefire".
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius voiced scepticism about chances of a peace deal leading to improvements on the ground and said it would be "a logical move" for the United States to send weapons to the Ukrainian army.
Many European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have cautioned against sending arms to Kiev for fear of fanning the conflict.
Obama, Merkel warn of new options
U.S. President Barack Obama and Merkel on Monday warned of additional steps in Ukraine should diplomacy fail to deter Russian action in the country.
“Russian aggression has only reinforced the unity of the United States and Germany and our allies and partners around the world,” Obama said during a joint press conference with Merkel.
"If we give up this principle of territorial integrity of countries, then we will not be able to maintain the peaceful order of Europe that we've been able to achieve. This not just any old point: it's an essential, a crucial point, and we have to stand by it," Merkel said.
The American president added that should diplomacy fail to deter Russia, he has directed his policy team to look at all options, “and the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that's being examined.”
Earlier Monday, the Ukrainian military said 1,500 Russian troops crossed its border with convoys of military hardware, including Grad rocket systems.
Obama has faced strong pressure from Congress to supply the Ukrainian military with lethal assistance so it can more effectively fight separatist rebels in the east of the country.
“What we're doing with regard to Ukraine and with regard to Russia makes no sense, and it isn't working,” prospective Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz told CNN on Sunday. “It is long past time for us to step forward and provide defensive weapons, so that the men and women of Ukraine can defend their nation.”
The German chancellor has argued publicly against such a move, in part due to fears Russia could increase its military activity in Ukraine. She has jointly planned a peace summit with French President Francois Hollande scheduled for Wednesday in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are slated to participate in the French-German meeting.
Obama said he “won’t prejudge” the talks, but earlier said Russia has “violated just about every commitment they made” during a previous peace conference in the Belarusian capital.
Despite her continued emphasis on diplomacy, Merkel said “if, at a certain point in time, one has to say that a success is not possible, even if one puts every effort into it, then the United States and Europe have to sit together and try and explore further possibilities.”
More than 5,300 people have died in ongoing fighting between the central government in Kiev and separatist rebels, according to a UN tally.
Last Mod: 10 Şubat 2015, 14:00