World Bulletin/News Desk
Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted if progress is made in resolving the crisis in Ukraine, French President Francois Hollande has said.
Speaking in a wide-ranging two-hour interview on France Inter radio on Monday, Hollande said that, while Europe should keep lines of communication open with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "he must know where to stop, and it has been costly for him".
He added: "I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress, the sanctions will remain."
His comments came ahead of talks between Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko and Putin scheduled in Kazakhstan for 15 January, as part of international attempts to reach a peace deal.
Hollande added: "I am going to Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) on January 15 on one condition, that there be fresh progress. And I think there will be.
"If it is to meet and talk without making headway, it is not worth it."
Ukraine's President said on Dec. 29 he had invited the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to Astana talks in an attempt to restore peace to Kiev's eastern territories.
Plunging oil prices
Sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States along with plunging oil prices sent the ruble crashing by about 40 percent against the dollar at the end of 2014.
The punitive measures imposed by the west came after Russia annexed Crimea in March after holding a referendum.
In November, France stopped the delivery of two Mistral class warships to Russia, which had been on hold since clashes broke out in eastern Ukraine.
About 400 Russian sailors training to operate the ships in France returned to Russia before Christmas.
Regarding negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, Hollande said his country was determined to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and will not move from the position.
He said: "France will not give in on this. It will be totally firm.
"If there is not a clear notification by Iran to renounce nuclear weapons, there will be no agreement on the French side."
"At the same time, Iran is also a partner so there can be stability in Iraq and in Syria. For this, it would be better that there is an agreement," he said, but he added Iran was also viewed as a partner in helping bring stability to certain countries of the region such as Syria and Iraq.
Expression of regret
On Syria, Hollande expressed regret that there was no military intervention in Syria "at a time when this was justified because of the regime's use of chemical weapons".
He called for more support for "moderate" Syrian opposition groups seeking to oust the regime of Bashir Al-Assad, ruling out any alliance with Bashar Al-Assad against extremists in Syria.
French forces have participated in a U.S.-led coalition against extremist militant group Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant in Iraq since August 2014.
Commenting on the possibilities of Greece leaving the EU, Hollande urged the country to "stick to its European commitments".
"The Greeks are free to choose their own destiny but, having said that, there are certain engagements that have been made and all those must be of course respected," Hollande said.
Radical left coalition SYRIZA are expected to win upcoming elections on Jan. 25, according to polls.
SYRIZA has strongly criticized the unpopular austerity measures imposed by the terms of "bailouts" made by the Troika - the European Central Bank, IMF and European Commission - which the Greek government accepted in 2010 and 2012.
The German government considered a Greek exit from the euro in 2012, but rejected the idea over concerns of the threat it could pose to the entire European Monetary System.
However, recent media reports on Sunday said Germany was prepared to accept that Greece could leave the currency union.
Citing unnamed government sources, Der Spiegel reported on its website: "The German government considers a Eurozone exit by Greece to be almost inevitable if opposition leader Alexis Tsipras leads the government after the election and abandons budgetary discipline and does not repay the country's debts."
Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2015, 13:13