Gabriel: No lifting of sanctions without progress in the Minsk peace process
EU Foreign Ministers have extended the sanctions imposed over Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea for a further year. Meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, the Ministers agreed that the sanctions would now remain in force until June 2018. Foreign Minister Gabriel plainly stated that a relaxation of the restrictions would only be on the table once the terms of the Minsk peace agreement were implemented. “As long as that is not the case, things will remain very, very difficult,” Gabriel said. Germany is endeavouring to enforce and monitor the ceasefire through its participation in a negotiating group comprising Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France.
Punitive measures for a violation of international law
The punitive sanctions adopted by the EU directly target Crimea and the administration set up by Russia in the illegally annexed territory. The sanctions restrict the import and export of goods to and from the peninsula, and also limit investment and the acquisition of real estate. The restrictive measures are also designed to make sure that the administration instituted following Russia’s occupation of Crimea does not profit from tourism revenue. For example, European cruise ships are not allowed to call at any ports on the peninsula.
Europe and the US united in their stance against Russia
Gabriel stressed that the international community had to speak with a single voice wherever possible to ensure that severe violations of international law, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea, did not go unchallenged. “It is important for Europe and the US to remain united in their response to Russia,” Gabriel stated. A US bill on sanctions against Russia which would affect business interests in the European energy market has met with criticism these past days. Gabriel warned that sanctions should not be abused to further one’s own economic interests. He noted that US Secretary of State Tillerson had also expressed reservations about the bill, and hoped that his more moderate position would prevail.