France says lifting sanctions on Russia would be counterproductive

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault leaves the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

MINSK (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday that lifting European Union sanctions on Russia would weaken efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis and hand a victory to Moscow.

“It would weaken the objective of resolving this conflict and would be a victory to those who endangered the security of a country,” Ayrault told Reuters, speaking before talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in Minsk on implementing a ceasefire accord in eastern Ukraine.

With some calls in France, notably by presidential election front runner Francois Fillon, to lift sanctions on Russia, Ayrault said it would be tantamount to giving in to Moscow.

“Abandoning the Minsk accords would be a mistake for our strategic interests,” Ayrault added.

Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Andrew Heavens