BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that EU sanctions against Russia tied to its intervention in eastern Ukraine could only be lifted if there was full implementation of the Minsk agreement signed between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels back in September.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin with visiting Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, Merkel said she did not expect separate sanctions tied to Crimea could be lifted as this would require a reversal of Russia's annexation of the territory.
"I have little hope on that front," Merkel said. "The other sanctions were introduced in response to the intervention in eastern Ukraine. Fulfilling the entire Minsk agreement is the way to bring about a reversal (of sanctions) here. The entire Minsk agreement must be implemented before we can say these sanctions can be lifted."
Merkel also said Yatseniuk had presented a convincing case for his reform plans. She said it would only become clear in the coming days whether a proposed meeting with the leaders Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany would take place as planned later this month in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.
(Reporting by Noah Barkin and Alexandra Hudson; writing by Erik Kirschbaum)