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ROME, December 10. /TASS/. The Italian Foreign Ministry has not confirmed that the issue of extending sanctions against Russia will be discussed at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on December 14 on Italy’s initiative, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s press service told TASS on Thursday.
"We cannot confirm [this information]. Italy has always held the position that sanctions [against Russia] are not irreversible," the press service said adding that "such decisions are made at the higher political level."
On Wednesday ASNA news agency reported citing diplomatic sources in Brussels that Italy does not support automatic extension of restrictive measures imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis and insisted on discussing this issue.
The issue of extending sanctions against Russia has been put on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels on December 14 on Italy’s initiative, a European source close to the European Council told TASS on Wednesday. "The formal decision about extending restrictive measures against Russia should be made at the EU ambassador session this week but Italy insisted that the issue is included in the agenda for Monday," the source said.
The EU foreign ministers will make a political decision on whether to extend anti-Russian sanctions on Monday. If they do not reach an agreements, the issue will be put on the agenda of the EU summit scheduled for December 17-18 in Brussels.
Western media repeatedly wrote that EU leans toward extending sanctions against Russia as restrictive measures expire in January 2016. This position is dominant among EU member countries though France announced its intention to deepen cooperation with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization after terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13.
According to sources, the issue of expiration date of sanctions, if they are extended, remains open. "It is not known today for how long restrictive measures will be extended - maybe for three months, maybe for half a year," the sources said.
For incorporation of Crimea after last year’s coup in Ukraine, Russia came under sanctions on the part of the United States and many European countries. The restrictive measures were soon intensified following Western and Ukrainian claims that Russia supported militias in self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s southeast and was involved in destabilization of Ukraine.
As countermeasures, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
The Russian authorities have repeatedly denied accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as claims that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in Ukraine’s east.