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Anti-Russia sanctions extension ‘absurd,’ impedes Ukraine crisis settlement — Schroeder

January 15, 2016, 3:06 UTC+3
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BERLIN, January 15. /TASS/. The extension of the EU sanctions against Russia is absurd and complicates the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said in an interview with the Handelsblatt business newspaper.

"The introduction of sanctions against any country would never be a favorite tool of my policy, but I regard this with understanding," Schroeder said commenting on the West’s response to Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March 2014.

The politician criticized the situation when the sanctions against Russia are extended despite the clear progress in the Minsk peace deal implementation, adding that this is a mistake of the German government.

"Frankly speaking, this is absurd," Schroeder stressed.

"I would give a signal to the Russian leadership on acknowledging and respecting the progress that has been reached and on the beginning of the process of terminating economic sanctions," the ex-chancellor said.

"It would be wise to step towards the political partner who complies with commitments rather than to isolate it. The leaders of the Western states know how important is Russia’s support in the efforts on resolving the conflict in Syria," he said.

The former chancellor said the extension of the EU sanctions against Russia "will complicate the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis." "I expect however that despite this Russia will continue cooperating in the efforts on searching for the solution to the conflict in Syria," he said.

Speaking on the situation in the Middle East, Schroeder said the problem is that the struggle for power and religious issues overlap. "This makes the process of the search for the solution even more difficult," he said.

The politician said the West made a serious mistake when thinking that the crisis in Syria could be resolved if President Bashar Assad left immediately. The issue of the new leadership in Syria could be discussed only in the end of the diplomatic process, he said.

"First, Assad needs to be given a proposal on talks. In particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about this strategy in his recent interview (with Bild newspaper)," he said.

The Minsk agreements, approved in the Belarussian capital on February 12, 2015 by Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) and also by the Contact Group, envisaged a ceasefire between the Ukrainian forces and people’s militias starting from February 15.

The deal, known as Minsk-2, also laid out a roadmap for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give more autonomy to the war-torn eastern regions. The accords also envisaged a prisoner exchange on the "all for all" basis.

The Ukrainian forces and militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics have repeatedly accused each other of violating ceasefire and other points of the Minsk agreements.

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