Europe News

Merkel wants to beef up sanctions against Russia: newspaper

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting of the Christian Democratic Seniors Union in Magdeburg, Germany, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel wants to get other European Union member countries to agree to step up sanctions against Russia because of its role in the war in Syria, a German newspaper cited sources close to the German chancellor as saying.

The issue of sanctions is due to be discussed at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday. Both the EU and the United States have already imposed economic and other sanctions on Russia for its seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and for its support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung cited the sources as saying it was proving hard to get the agreement of the Social Democrats - the junior partner to Merkel’s conservatives in Germany’s ruling coalition - and other EU countries on tougher measures, but that “resentment towards the Russians has increased”.

The attack on a U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy in Syria last month and Russia’s actions in Aleppo have contributed to that, the newspaper cited the sources as saying.

Western powers have accused Russia and Syria of committing atrocities by bombing hospitals, killing civilians and preventing medical evacuations, accusations that they reject. The United States has said two Russian warplanes bombed the aid convoy, but Moscow denies this.

U.S. President Barack Obama told Merkel by telephone that he would support “a tough response” if European countries could agree on that, F.A.S. cited sources as saying.

It cited the sources as saying further sanctions were being considered against the aviation industry or in sectors that affected the Russian Defence Ministry.

A German government spokesperson could not immediately comment on the report.

On Oct. 7, Merkel urged Russia to use its influence with the Syrian government to end the bombardment of Aleppo. She did not address sanctions directly, but said the international community must do all it could to bring about a halt in the fighting and get supplies to civilians.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Kevin Liffey