Brussels (Online): The NATO chief says the West should uphold the bans imposed against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis amid a rift among major EU powers over the future of the sanctions policy towards Moscow.
“My assessment is that one should not remove the economic sanctions before Russia has changed its behavior. I believe there is a broad agreement about this in the EU,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.
He was apparently reacting to recent comments by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who slammed NATO for its bellicose policy towards Russia and urged the Western military alliance to consider lifting the anti-Moscow bans in phases.
Steinmeier had said the sanctions should gradually be lifted “if the Russian government showed it was doing its part in implementing the Minsk peace plan for Ukraine.”
His French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault also called on EU leaders to hold talks on possible offers for the easing of anti-Moscow bans if there is progress in the implementation of the peace deals on Ukraine.
There should be a “discussion along with the renewing of sanctions and that should focus on what do we do if there is progress” in the delivery of the peace process, Ayrault said.
“I think that if we can give some signs of encouragement to one side and the other, this could be useful,” he added.
However, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond adopted a harsher stance and said the removal of anti-Russia bans should be tied to the full implementation of Ukraine’s peace deals.
Some EU governments, including the Baltic States, Poland have also backed the UK position.