WASHINGTON - The United States says it is fully prepared to impose further sanctions should Russia fail to call on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to disarm.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not mince words Thursday after meeting with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Paris. With an eye to a cease-fire that expires on Friday, Kerry was clear that time is running out.
“It is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they are moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate political process," said Kerry.
The European Union is set to meet Friday in Belgium to discuss imposing further sanctions on Russia. And while American officials say it's uncertain if the United States would decide before then, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said the U.S. is ready.
“We have in place the infrastructure to do this very quickly if we want to. The secretary was not outlining specific times for this to happen but underscoring that this needs to happen quickly,” said Harf.
Harf said the additional sanctions could affect Russia's financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering and defense sectors. She emphasized that further measures are targeted at maximizing pressure on Russia while minimizing the impact on the U.S. economy.
The comments came after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers ran ads in major American newspapers saying a new round of sanctions on Russia could hurt American businesses and workers.
Spokesperson Harf said U.S. officials have had “robust discussions” with the business community on the issue and taken those “calculations" into account.
European leaders also have voiced concern that new sanctions could otherwise hurt Europe's expanding economic ties with Moscow. Both the EU and the U.S. earlier imposed sanctions against specific Russian individuals and companies after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March.
In Paris, Secretary Kerry said his preference is not to be in a “sanctions mode” and that he hopes the United States, Europe, Russia and Ukraine can cooperate to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.
On Friday the focus will shift to another hotspot - Iraq - with Secretary Kerry traveling to Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah on the deteriorating security situation in that country.