Paris to promote lifting of anti-Moscow sanctions by summer – French economy minister

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. © Ruben Sprich
France is going to assist in lifting sanctions imposed by the West on Russia by summer this year, Emmanuel Macron, France’s Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, has announced.

"The objective we all share is to provide the lifting of sanctions by the summer, as far as the [peace] process [in southeastern Ukraine] is respected," the French senior official said on Sunday while addressing French businessmen in Moscow, as cited by AFP.

Macron was referring to the situation in southeastern Ukraine, which saw the US and a number of European countries, including France, imposing restrictions on Russia. To solve the Ukrainian crisis, contact groups have met several times in Minsk, Belarus’ capital, with the participation of French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin, resulting in the so-called ‘Minsk agreements’.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry has also pointed out that the sanctions are to be removed when the package of Minsk peace deal measures is fulfilled. "It is possible in these next months to find those Minsk agreements implemented," Kerry said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos.

The French economy minister is now in Moscow heading a French delegation attending a session of the French-Russian council on economy, finance, commerce and trade matters, which will take place on Monday, for the first time since 2013. The French embassy in Russia has said that the realization of a number of joint projects in energy, space, transport and other spheres is still to be discussed, RIA Novosti reported. The cooperation of small businesses and medium-sized enterprises is also on the table.

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In December last year, the European Union prolonged its sanctions against Russia – originally imposed in August of 2014 – for another six months. While an increasing number of European politicians have become more skeptical about the sanctions, pointing out that they have proven to be politically ineffective and economically harmful for both Russia and European countries, Italy had initially delayed the decision to prolong the anti-Russian measures, demanding the issue be talked over rather than just rubber-stamped.