EU to Maintain Sanctions Against Russia Until End of YearEU | March 20, 2015, Friday // 07:44| views
European heads of states and government summit pay tribute with a minute of Silence after terrorist attack in Tunisia, during EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, 19 March 2015. Photo: EPA
The leaders of the EU decided at their summit on Thursday to maintain the economic sanctions against Russia until the end of the year.
In a joint statement, they agreed to link the sanctions to the complete implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, which had been agreed in February.
EU leaders noted that the legal acts required to extend the sanctions will be taken in the next months and expressed readiness to take deeper sanctions if necessary, EUobserver reports.
The sanctions prohibit purchase of long-term bonds from leading Russian banks, energy and arms firms as well as export of technology for gas and oil exploration.
The sanctions were imposed in July 2014 for a one-year period and will have to be renewed by EU consensus before they expire.
The outcome of the summit is believed to be a compromise between member states that wanted to extend the sanctions and those that opposed their prolongation.
Member states continue to be divided over the implementation of the ceasefire with some countries, such as Spain, claiming that Russia is complying with the agreement.
However European Council President Donald Tusk said that Russia has violated the ceasefire more than 1000 times in the past six weeks.
Tusk revealed that after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, it was agreed to maintain the sanctions until the ceasefire is fully implemented.
Merkel announced in a separate press briefing that there was political commitment to extend the sanctions and the legal decisions will be adopted later.
EU leaders highlighted that a different set of prohibitions, concerning doing business in Crimea, will be maintained in the long term.
They expressed their determination to develop closer cooperation with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, hinting at a possible visa-free travel arrangement by May.
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