German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on Tuesday called for extending E.U. financial sanctions against Russia because of its ongoing aggression in Ukraine.
The leaders of Europe’s two largest economies spoke at a press conference in Berlin ahead of Thursday’s European Council summit in Brussels.
Since implementing the so-called Minsk ceasefire agreement in the Ukraine, the smoldering border conflict is making little progress, the two said. “It will be necessary to extend the sanctions against Russia once again,” Ms. Merkel told journalists at the Chancellery.
“As long as there is no effort, no progress, there are always the same obstacles, I am in favor of extending the sanctions, just like the chancellor,” said Mr. Hollande, standing next to Ms. Merkel.
The French president said the European Union “must continue to enforce the Minsk agreement.” He emphatically called for sanctions, which are supposed to expire at the end of this year, to be extended until the ceasefire deal is observed, “even though this formula shouldn’t become permanent.”
Handelsblatt reported last week that, according to diplomatic and European sources, the European Union will extend its economic sanctions against Russia for six months after the European Council summit on December 15.
These sanctions, which the E.U. first imposed against Moscow in the summer of 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea and in the face of mounting evidence of Russian involvement in a civil war unfolding in eastern Ukraine, include restricted access to international funding and a limitation of Russian-European defense and energy cooperation.
“Without the Russians, no Syrian regime.”
Brussels has already extended these sanctions three times since, and the current round of sanctions, which was agreed upon in June, is due to expire in January.
The French president, who announced at the start of the month that he will not stand for reelection next year, traveled to the German capital on Tuesday so that both leaders could reach a common stance ahead of Thursday’s summit.
Although a significant part of their agenda on Tuesday was dedicated to a French-German partnership to support and foster digitalization in Europe, urgent international issues came to the fore, including Syria.
Mr. Hollande made further serious accusations against Moscow for the situation in Syria, saying Russia is responsible if there is no humanitarian aid for the civilians “held hostage” in the city of Aleppo. “Without the Russians, no Syrian regime,” is the reality in the country, the French head of state said, adding that there was a humanitarian emergency to be addressed as soon as possible.
Rebels who had held the eastern part of Aleppo for four years are on the brink of defeat. On Tuesday, the United Nations said there were reports of summary executions of civilians in the city, including women and children.
Ms. Merkel called the situation in Aleppo “disastrous” and “heartbreaking.”
In addition, Ms. Merkel said that due to the “fragile situation” in the Mediterranean region, Berlin and Paris intended to push for migration partnerships with African countries, modeled on the E.U.-Turkey agreement, to be finalized faster.
She also called for an accelerated implementation of the faltering resettlement mechanism for refugees who have entered Greece from Turkey.
Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor at Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.