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G7 'united' on Russia sanctions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expects the G7 to produce a "united signal" that sanctions against Russia can only be softened if a February peace accord for Ukraine is fully implemented.

Even before the issue was brought to the table, most of the leaders had already expressed their support for the idea.

This year's meeting of the leading industrialised democracies was the second in a row without Russia, which was ejected from what was the G8 last year over its actions in Ukraine.

Even with President Vladimir Putin absent, Russia was prominent in the leaders' minds as they gathered in the Bavarian Alps.

Merkel and US President Barack Obama agreed during a pre-summit bilateral meeting that the duration of sanctions imposed upon Moscow should be "clearly linked to Russia's full implementation of the Minsk" peace accord agreed in February, the White House said in a statement. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, another summit participant, were central to drawing up that accord.

Later, Merkel stressed in an interview with Germany's public ZDF television that sanctions are not an end in themselves and they "can be dispensed with when the conditions under which they were introduced are no longer there and the problems are resolved".

She said that "we have a chance if everyone makes an effort - that is to some extent in Russia's hands and of course in Ukraine's".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Kiev before heading to the summit in Germany and pledged to make sure that "solidarity with Ukraine" was also on the agenda for the next G7, which is being held in Japan, his spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura told a small group of reporters.

This year, he said, Japan's main goal is that all sides abide by the Minsk agreement.

"That is our goal and for that ... all G7 leaders should show a common approach," Mr Kawamura said.

Heading into the talks, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would push for Europe to stand firm with sanctions against Russia even though some countries - especially cash-strapped Greece - were suffering economically because of declining investment and tourists from Russia.

"It has an impact on all countries in terms of putting sanctions on another country," Mr Cameron said. "Britain hasn't let our pre-eminence in financial services get in the way of taking a robust response to Russian-backed aggression and I don't think other countries should either."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who also visited Kiev before heading to Bavaria, has been "strongly advocating" for the G7 leaders and other allies to maintain the pressure and sanctions on Russia, his spokesman Stephen Lecce said.

He added that Harper "stands ready to impose further measures against the Putin regime if Moscow refuses to halt its aggressive behaviour."

European Union President Donald Tusk told reporters that since the Ukraine peace deal agreed in Minsk has not been fully implemented, the only question for the 28-nation EU is whether to make the sanctions against Russia even tougher.

"If anyone wants to start a debate about changing the sanctions regime, the discussion could only be about strengthening them," said Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister. The EU participates in the summits of the G7 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

After Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year, the other world powers kicked the country out of the G8 in an effort to isolate Mr Putin and to signal the West's united opposition to his actions.

The rift has deepened amid subsequent fighting in eastern Ukraine and several rounds of sanctions against Russia.

The US and the European Union have imposed financial restrictions on Russian companies and individuals to pressure Russia into stopping its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. They and NATO say Russian troops and military equipment have been used on Ukrainian territory - something Russia denies.

Mr Tusk said Russia's possible return to the G8 would depend on a turn-around in Moscow's foreign policy.

"This is a community of values. And this is why Russia is not among us here today and will not be invited as long as it behaves aggressively toward Ukraine and other countries," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph