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EU Ministers Discuss Ukraine Cease-fire

  • VOA News

Ukrainian servicemen in eastern Ukraine, March 3, 2015.

Ukrainian servicemen in eastern Ukraine, March 3, 2015.

European Union foreign ministers met for a second day in the Latvian capital of Riga on Saturday, devoting most of their time to the crisis in Ukraine.

Many ministers pinned their hopes for peace on the success of the latest Minsk cease-fire agreement and said the EU should only consider tightening sanctions on Russia if the agreement was seriously violated.

The European Union's Foreign Policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the EU is "extremely realistic about the developments in Russia."

“But we'll never be trapped, or forced, or pushed, or pulled into a confrontative (sic) attitude," she said. "We still believe that around our continent, not only in our continent, but around our continent, cooperation is far better than confrontation and we'll still argue for that."

While the cease-fire reached last month has mostly been holding, concerns have been raised about a possible separatist offensive on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn suggested that sanctions against Russia would remain in place for the moment but could soon be lifted.

"I think we need to be quite realistic, and especially optimistic," he said. "I can imagine that the sanctions that have been decided upon will continue, that sanctions are one tool of diplomacy. But if things move in the right direction in the east of Ukraine, we must also begin to try to think about a roll back of the sanctions. Sanctions are here to make things move forward, so if we believe in [the] Minsk [agreement] and things move in the right directions, then the sanctions too will have to move."

Pro-Russian rebels said Saturday they have completed their withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines, in compliance with terms of the agreement.

The ministers also discussed the EU's relations with Russia, Greece's financial status and the attack on a restaurant in the Malian capital of Bamako.

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