EU diplomats have decided to keep in place a tough package of sanctions against Russia, over its actions in eastern Ukraine and support of rebels there. A peace plan had not yet been fully implemented, they said.
The EU decided on Tuesday not to drop or lessen sanctions against Russia, during talks among ambassadors from member states in Brussels. The bloc imposed its latest round of sanctions earlier this month.
At the time, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said they could be dropped depending on the results of a review, the deadline of which was Tuesday. But the bloc found that Ukraine's peace plan, agreed to between Kyiv and pro-Russian rebels, had not yet been fully implemented.
EU spokeswoman Maja Kojicancic said there had been "encouraging developments" in "some aspects" of the peace deal, but added that "relevant parts of the protocol will need to be properly implemented."
"If the situation on the ground so warrants, the Commission and the EEAS (EU diplomatic service) would be invited to put forward to the Council proposals to amend, suspend or repeal the set of sanctions in force, in all or in part," Kojicancic said.
The rival parties in Ukraine signed a 12-point peace plan in Minsk on September 5, while a separate deal was inked on September 20 between Ukraine's army and pro-Russian rebels. The September 20 plan calls for a ceasefire and for both sides to separate themselves with a buffer zone.
But fighting has still continued. Officials said on Monday that nine soldiers and four civilians had been killed in just one day, in what was the deadliest attacks in a month. Almost 3,000 people have died in the Ukraine conflict.
Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel flagged a possible rethink of the German and EU energy partnership with Russia, if Moscow continued to violate basic principles in eastern Ukraine.
She said there was no scope at the moment to ease sanctions against Russia.
"Unfortunately, we are a very long way away from that," Merkel said, adding that the situation in eastern Ukraine was "anything but satisfactory."
"The elementary question of the cease-fire is not yet cleared up, still less the future status and cooperation between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Ukrainian central government," Merkel said.
"There is no protection of the border along the entire Luhansk and Donetsk region - no control, no buffer zones, and all of that is the minimum condition for us to be able to consider revoking sanctions.
jr/dr (Reuters, AFP)