BRUSSELS/BERLIN - European Union envoys failed on Wednesday to reach a decision on whether to implement new sanctions against Russia over military involvement in the war in Ukraine and will meet for talks on Thursday, EU diplomats said.
The diplomats said that while Germany was pushing to have the sanctions implemented, several other EU countries wanted to hold off because a ceasefire in Ukraine was holding.
“Some countries are asking for time,” Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who has been chosen to be the EU's new foreign policy chief, told reporters in Brussels, declining to say who those countries were. “Unity in this is absolutely crucial and strategic,” she said.
EU diplomats said that countries with close ties to Russia such as Italy, Austria and Finland are reluctant to implement the new sanctions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the sanctions to go ahead, adding that they could always be suspended at a later date if there was progress towards a peace plan for Ukraine.
“We are in favor of making these sanctions public now,” Merkel told the German parliament.
Ukraine's president said on Wednesday Russia had removed the bulk of its forces from his country, raising hopes for a peace drive now underway after five months of conflict in which more than 3,000 people have been killed.
EU diplomats said, however, that the general idea was still for the sanctions to be implemented through publication in the Official Journal of the European Union on Friday.
The EU sanctions list dated Sept.6 shows battle-tank maker Uralvagonzavod, aerospace company Oboronprom and state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) are among Russian companies to face new EU sanctions if the bloc decides to implement them, according to a draft obtained by Reuters.
Oboronprom is the main shareholder in Russia's top producer of civilian and military helicopters: Russian Helicopters.
Uralvagonzavod is a maker of Russian battle-tanks. UAC was created by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his 2000-2008 presidency to be a national champion for plane manufacturing.
The EU sanctions would prohibit the companies from raising capital in Europe via “financial instruments with a maturity exceeding 30 days”, the draft document said.
Moscow has lobbied for a delay in the implementation of new sanctions. Russia's ambassador spoke to the head of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs EU summits, and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton on Monday, diplomats said.
His message was that the EU should look at what was happening on the ground in Ukraine and reflect on its position that the ceasefire was holding.
One of the difficulties in making a decision on sanctions implementation is that the EU has no agreed way to establish if the ceasefire in Ukraine is holding - it is up to individual governments to make their own assessment.