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'We need to stand up to Russia' - Barack Obama is talking tough at the G7 summit

The US president says sanctions against Vladimir Putin won’t change until a ceasefire is complied with in Ukraine.

Image: Carolyn Kaster

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that Western sanctions must remain in place against Russia until it complies with a ceasefire deal with Ukraine.

“The two leaders discussed the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and agreed that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s full implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the White House said in a statement released on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Germany.

Obama and Merkel held private talks ahead of the summit and the US president earlier urged his fellow G7 leaders to stand up together against “Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

Peace talks on Ukraine resumed in Minsk on May 6 as clashes have intensified on the ground in a conflict that has killed more than 6,400 people since April 2014.

CORRECTION Russia Putin Source: AP/Press Association Images

The negotiations are aimed at enforcing the implementation of a peace deal reached in Minsk in February, leading to an extremely fragile ceasefire that is regularly breached across the eastern conflict zone.

The Minsk deal, agreed under pressure from the leaders of Germany and France, states that all conditions – including a complete ceasefire, the pullback of all heavy weapons and the restoration of Ukraine’s border with Russia to Ukrainian control – should be fulfilled by the end of 2015.

The United States, the EU and Germany all expressed alarm over the renewed violence in eastern Ukraine, with Washington warning Russia it would face new punishment if the crisis escalates.

Diplomats told AFP on Friday that EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month were set to extend sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the fighting in Ukraine until the end of 2015.

Germany G-7 Source: Matthias Schrader/PA

The sanctions, which target economic sectors such as Russia’s banks and oil industry, were imposed after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

The White House said Obama and Merkel also discussed the proposed TTIP transatlantic trade deal “to promote growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic” as well as “the importance of working together to promote a successful climate agreement this year”.

Global leaders will gather at a year-end United Nations summit in Paris in a bid to forge a new treaty aimed at fighting global warming.

Merkel has said she hopes the G7 summit, running until Monday, will lend momentum to the drive for a Paris accord.

Greece

The other major issue facing the summit is Greece and its creditors , amid fears the debt-wracked country could crash out of the euro and rock the world economy.

Merkel, a champion of tough eurozone reform and austerity, will host the other leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised democracies – the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan.

Also at the two-day power meet will be Greece’s international creditors – the EU, ECB and IMF – who have wrangled for weeks to hammer out a reform plan that would unlock a final €7.2 billion in bailout funds Athens desperately needs.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU President Donald Tusk are among the guests due to speak today, with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde joining them on Monday.

Greece Bailout Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Source: AP/Press Association Images

In a sign of growing tensions ahead of a key deadline at the end of June, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has dismissed creditors’ demands as “absurd”.

Juncker yesterday snubbed a phone call from the radical leftist leader, with an EU official reportedly saying there was “nothing to discuss”, although Tsipras, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande later spoke by phone.

The three leaders “took stock of the situation to help move forward the negotiations between Greece and the three (creditor) institutions,” a French source said.

Athens last week withheld a 300-million-euro loan repayment to the IMF, opting instead to group four scheduled tranches into a single payment at the end of the month.

Tsipras on Friday argued that a “cynical” policy of economic asphyxiation and harsh austerity being applied to Greece would ultimately impact other European states in economic difficulty.

© – AFP, 2015

Read: Greece will miss an IMF repayment (but promises to pay before July)

Read: Pics: Arrests and injuries during bloody clashes at gay pride march in Kiev

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