EU to discuss sanctions' alleviation as progress is made in Minsk deal implementation
The alleviation of anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the European Union is directly linked to the progress made in the implementation of the Minsk agreements for Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has told Interfax in an exclusive interview.
"The larger the progress made in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the sooner we will be able to discuss the alleviation of the sanctions regime. Therefore, our efforts should now focus on the soonest fulfillment of the Minsk agreements," Steinmeier said in the interview timed to coincide with his visit to Moscow.
He was asked whether the EU might decide to lift the anti-Russian sanctions either partially or fully at its summit in June and commented on a statement of his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni that the opinions of Berlin and Paris on the progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements for Ukraine would be crucial for deciding if the extension of the sanctions was necessary.
"An immediate and lasting improvement of security levels is vital for people [in eastern Ukraine]," he said.
As to Russia-EU relations in general and the five principles laid down by the EU for building future relations with Russia, Steinmeier said, "Russia is the biggest neighbor of the European Union; it is much bigger than anyone else. A smoothly operating neighborhood meets mutual interests. After what happened in the 20th century, we, the Germans, are responsible for creating new channels for dialogue and searching for solutions to conflicts. We have been doing so at various levels and at numerous forums. I personally maintain close and regular contacts with my colleague, Sergei Lavrov."
"Nevertheless, we need to remember that the European Union and Russia are disagreeing on a number of important matters, and these disagreements need to be overcome together. It will take efforts of the governments, but civil society can also play an important role. This is why it is so important to maintain millions of contacts between Germany and Russia in the field of public relations, culture, the economy and politics," Steinmeier said.
He gave the example of the Russian-German Year of Youth Exchanges held in 2016-2017 under the patronage of the German and Russian foreign ministers. "Or this can be done by means of the agreement between the Association of Russian Leading Universities and the German Academic Exchange Service. By doing so, we will make sure that future generations maintain these relations and, probably, find new ways to reach one another," the German foreign minister said.