EU Prolongs Russia Economic Sanctions over Ukraine

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The European Union agreed to prolong economic sanctions against Russia for another six months amid sharp differences over relations with Moscow.

EU Prolongs Russia Economic Sanctions over Ukraine

A statement issued by the council of all 28 member states on Monday said it took the decision because the peace accords, brokered in Minsk, Belarus, by France and Germany with Ukraine and Russia would not be fully implemented by end of this year as required.

“Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by Dec. 31, 2015, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged while the Council [of member states] continues its assessment of progress in implementation,” it said, AFP reported.

The decision was originally meant to have been a formality, with member country ambassadors supposedly approving the rollover in early December.

But it ended up delayed after several countries, especially Italy, raised questions about how the EU could both punish Russia over Ukraine yet still seek its help on key international issues, including the Syrian conflict.

Italy has traditionally close ties with Russia and wanted EU leaders at last week’s summit in Brussels to discuss the issue, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi could not get it on the formal agenda despite his best efforts. “I found it surprising that we should want to confirm the sanctions without first having had a little discussion,” he said after the summit.

German plans to build a second pipeline – Nordstream 2 – to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea added to Renzi’s frustration.

Rome reportedly sees it as hypocritical on Berlin’s part when the rest of the bloc was being asked to sacrifice their interests in order to lay down the law to Russia.

EU President Donald Tusk, who chaired the summit, said the talks on Nordstream were heated. “It was an emotional discussion.”

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed the sanctions which target its bank, oil and defense sectors as both ineffective and counterproductive to the better mutual understanding the EU says it wants.

The EU first imposed economic sanctions against Russia for a year after the July 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet, blamed on pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

In June 2015, they were renewed for six months to January 2016 and will now run until end-July.

Besides the economic sanctions, the EU has imposed a separate travel ban and asset freezes on Russian and Ukrainian individuals blamed for the conflict in eastern Ukraine. These measures run to March.

It has also targeted those involved in Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 with similar measures which expire in June.

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