EU waits to see if ceasefire holds before imposing new sanctions

Paolo Gentiloni Foreign Minister Italy

Paolo Gentiloni Foreign Minister Italy

EU waits to see if ceasefire holds: At a meeting in the Latvian capital of Riga last night,  EU foreign ministers decided to wait and see if the fragile cease-fire in east Ukraine held before extending or strengthening the range of sanctions imposed on Russia. While both Kiev and pro-Russia separatists have accused each other of violence since last month’s peace accord called for heavy weapons to be withdrawn from the frontline in east Ukraine, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni talked of “encouraging signals” on the ground in eastern Ukraine. “At the moment we don’t need either new sanctions or automatic renewals [of sanctions],” he told reporters. 
Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz agreed. “There has been a glimmer of hope since Minsk [where the ceasefire was brokered],” he said “… We should do everything now to improve the situation and decide later whether that improvement really happened and we can reduce the sanctions, or if we have to extend them,” he said.
The comments reflect divisions within the 28-nation EU over sanctions on Russia, the bloc’s biggest energy supplier.While Britain, Poland and the Baltic states take a tough line, many other EU members, including Italy, Austria and Cyprus, are skeptical about sanctions. Alexis Tsipras’s election victory in Greece has also helped change the balance A key decision that the EU must face soon is whether to extend economic sanctions against Russia which it adopted for one year last July. It would require a unanimous vote to extend them, and a decision is not expected until the last minute.