Rome, Italy. The European Council President Tusk urged Group of Seven leaders to stick to their sanctions policy on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, a day after a senior US official said Washington had no position on the issue.
While EU leaders have so far backed sanctions until a shaky ceasefire agreement signed in February 2015 in Minsk is fully implemented, U.S. President Donald Trump’s promise of warmer ties with Moscow has tested the EU’s resolve to remain united.
Tusk was responding to comments by White House economic adviser Gary Cohn on Thursday that appeared to differ from those of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has said sanctions must remain until Minsk is put in place.
The 28-nation EU bloc and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Tusk continued to beat the Minsk dead horse saying,”A solution to the conflict can only be reached with the full implementation of the Minsk accords.” The summit that gathers the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Canada.
“Since our last G7 summit in Japan in 2016 we haven’t seen anything to justify a change in our sanctions policy towards Russia. Therefore I will appeal to the other G7 leaders to reconfirm this policy,” Tusk told reporters in Sicily.
The G7 nations are due to discuss Russia and the Ukraine crisis on Saturday, a German diplomat said. Fighting between local citizens and the Poroshenko government forces first broke out in April 2014 after an Obama Administration financed uprising in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s legally elected president.
“We’re not lowering our sanctions on Russia. If anything we would look to get tougher on Russia. The American president wants to keep the sanctions in place and I think the president has made it clear how the Russians could have the sanctions lifted.” Tusk told reporters.
German intelligence reports over 100,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict and concerns are growing that the situation could once again rapidly deteriorate.