Italy demands review of EU sanctions extension against Russia

Italy has delayed an EU decision to extend economic sanctions against Russia, demanding the measure is discussed further within the bloc. The surprising move came at a meeting of EU envoys in Brussels on Wednesday.

"We have asked for a discussion on the matter," said Tiziana d'Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Italian mission to the EU, Reuters reports.

EU envoys gathered to approve a six-month extension to the sanctions, which are due to expire by the end of January. The legal act has been drafted by EU Council officials following an agreement reached by EU leaders in the wings of G20 summit in Turkey last month.

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But Italy said that "the issue deserves a political discussion," an EU source familiar with Rome's position told EU Observer.

"I heard the Italians are not happy about procedure. That we shouldn’t move so quickly on such an important topic, without consultations," the EU Observer cited its other source as saying.

The move made EU diplomats "sort of confused," another EU Observer source said. Although Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has previously criticized the restrictive measures against Moscow, at G20 he personally backed its further extension.

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Details regarding the format and the date of the proposed debate are currently unclear, with some diplomatic sources suggesting that the EU summit next week might be the place. Other guesses say that the discussion might be held among 28 EU envoys on Thursday, or when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

It's not the first time the West has faced a disagreement regarding economic sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis. A number of EU countries, including Italy, Hungary, Cyprus, Slovakia and Greece have called for a political solution and dialogue with Russia, rather than turning to restrictive measures which also hurt the nations who impose them.

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In October, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that it is critical for the EU to work on improving its relations with Moscow, adding that "Russia must be treated decently."