EU Wins Greek Backing to Extend Russia Sanctions
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - European Union foreign ministers extended existing sanctions against Russia, holding off on tighter economic measures for now but winning the support of the new left-leaning government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.
The ministers agreed to extend until September travel bans and asset freezes imposed last year that had been due to expire. They also agreed to list the names of additional people who could be targeted with sanctions when they meet again on Feb. 9.
They dropped language, however, about drawing up "further restrictive measures" that had appeared in a pre-meeting draft. The bloc's foreign policy chief said a decision on such measures would be left to EU leaders meeting next month.
Germany said that the decision would depend on the situation on the ground, with any major new rebel advance demanding tougher sanctions.
Thursday's emergency meeting had been called after rebels launched an advance last week, disavowing a five-month-old ceasefire. On Saturday, suspected rebel forces shelled the major port city of Mariupol, killing 30 people. Since then, there has been intense fighting along the frontline, although the rebels appear to have held back from an all-out assault on Mariupol.
Washington, which has coordinated sanctions moves with Brussels in the past year, said it was not planning an immediate new announcement itself, Reuters reported.
“Certainly, we welcome it; it's a positive step,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing.
“This is just a further sign that the actions of the last several days and weeks are absolutely unacceptable and that there will be new consequences put in place," she said.
Psaki noted that the EU and the US sanctions lists had not targeted exactly the same people, firms, or sectors, and added: "We'll continue to consider others that we could add, but … I don't think there's anything to expect today.”
The run-up to the Brussels talks was dominated by Greece, whose new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, took power on Monday and complained that his government had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened.