EU's Tusk says sanctions on Russia must be maintained

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 6:42 AM

ROME (Reuters) - Europe must maintain pressure on Russia with sanctions until the Kiev government has full control of Ukraine, the president of the European Council Donald Tusk said in a joint interview with several newspapers published on Monday.

He also warned against the danger of a Greek exit from the euro, a scenario he called "idiotic", and said Europe needed to work out a clearer approach to its overall security policy in nearby crisis regions including Libya and Russia.

Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland, has been one of the strongest critics of Russia's role in the crisis in Ukraine and repeated that he had little confidence in Moscow.

"I'm skeptical about the goodwill of the Russians and I'm convinced that what's needed is to maintain pressure, not discuss details," he was quoted as saying by Italian daily La Stampa, one of six European newspapers which took part in the interview.

He said the Minsk accord brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, which calls for an end to fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, needed to be fully implemented.

"If we want to support the efforts of Merkel and Hollande, we have to keep up sanctions until there is full respect for the agreements. That is until Kiev is responsible for its national frontiers," Tusk was quoted as saying.

He also warned against underestimating the dangers that would arise if Greece were forced out of the euro, directly countering a number of economists and politicians in Germany who have said that the risk would be manageable for Europe.

"My efforts are to keep the euro zone united. In Germany, certain experts say that 'Grexit' would be a solution. I don't see anything good in that. We have to avoid this idiotic scenario."

Tusk said Europe needed to clarify its overall strategic approach to neighboring regions but he appeared skeptical about any intervention in chaos-ravaged Libya, where countries including Italy see a growing threat to European security.

"Intervening would be the simplest thing but before you do that, we have to know how to continue afterwards. There needs to be a long term strategy," he said.

Appointed last year, Tusk's role as Council president involves steering policy meetings of EU leaders and trying to forge consensus in the union of 28 countries as it struggles to build economic recovery and tackle crises like that in Ukraine.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Catherine Evans)