The US and four of its European allies have agreed in principle to step up sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. They also called on Russia to implement the terms of a recent deal meant to reduce tensions.
A statement released by the White House on Friday said that US President Barack Obama had reached a consensus on how to move forward on the Ukrainian crisis, during a conference call involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Holland and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
"The president noted that the United States is prepared to impose targeted sanctions to respond to Russia's latest actions," the statement said.
"The leaders agreed to work closely together, and through the G7 and European Union, to coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia. The leaders underscored that Russia could still choose a peaceful resolution to the crisis, including by implementing the Geneva accord."
French President Francois Hollande's office released a similar statement.
"Russia, conforming to the commitments made at Geneva, should contribute to the de-escalation, abstaining from provocative statements or acts of intimidation," the French statement said, referring to a deal struck between Russia, Ukraine and the West in Geneva last week, which outlined steps that each side should take to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine.
"The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine must be clearly respected," it added.
Prior to the conference call, German Chancellor Merkel had told reporters in Berlin that it was time for the EU and the US to step up sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians seen as stoking tensions in the current crisis.
"We will have to act, and I think this will be a common European action, and a joint action of the G7 states," the chancellor said, ahead of talks with visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. She was speaking after having spoken via telephone to Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day.
pfd/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)