Germany and US outline conditions for lifting sanctions on Russia

By bne IntelliNews October 23, 2014

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Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has outlined the conditions for the EU to lift sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, and received backing from US Secretary of State John Kerry. 

In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, Steinmeier said that the European Union had failed to define the conditions under which the various sanctions on Russia could be lifted. In fact a number of sanctions imposed on Russia have a set expiry date of one year, Steinmeier pointed out. 

"Even if the time has not yet come for sanctions to be lifted, we have to consider where we go from here," Steinmeier said.

According to Steinmeier, lifting of sanctions would require from Russia "swift implementation" of the Minsk peace accords signed on September 5 between representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Russian-backed rebels, in particular three aspects: “First - emptying the agreed buffer zones [between Ukrainian and rebels forces] of fighters and heavy weaponry; secondly, effective securing of the border; thirdly, regarding the regional elections in the areas controlled by separatists, which have been unilaterally set for December."

It is not clear from his comments whether Steinmeier was referring to elections in the regions controlled by the separatists, called by the separatists for November, and not recognised by Kyiv or internationally; or Ukrainian regional elections called by Kyiv for December 7, but rejected by the separatists.

A law passed by Kyiv on September 16 provided wide autonomy to the rebel-held areas of East Ukraine for three years, and also provided for the holding of local elections in the area together with the rest of Ukraine on December 7.

Steinmeier said that Russia had to help make sure that these elections would not cause Ukraine to fall apart, apparently implying Russia should ensure the regional elections are held in December in rebel-held territories in accordance with Ukrainian law, rather than separate elections in November, as planned by the rebels.

US Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to back Steinmeier's views, after meeting with him in Berlin on October 22. Kerry said that the US would cancel sanctions against Russia if Russia fulfils its agreements with Ukraine, EFE news agency reported.

"We hope that the sanctions could be lifted," Kerry said, adding that Washington was not interested in a conflict with Moscow.

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