BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to lift European sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict sooner rather than later but does not yet see the basis to do so, deputies from her party said on Tuesday.
They said Merkel told a meeting of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group on Tuesday that she would "rather today than tomorrow lift" the sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis and its annexation of the Crimea peninsula.
However, a decision to lift the sanctions would have to be based on the facts on the ground, which were not yet in place in the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, the party officials reported her as saying.
EU envoys agreed in December on a six-month rollover of the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia, extending the measures on energy, banking and defense sectors until the end of July 2016.
The EU has tied its sanctions to the implementation of a peace deal that Germany and France negotiated between Moscow and Kiev, many points of which have still not been implemented.
The West says it has satellite images, videos and other evidence to show Russia is providing weapons to the rebels and that Moscow has troops engaged in the conflict that erupted following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014.
Russia denies these accusations.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Tom Heneghan)