France, Germany hold out sanctions if Ukraine accords break

AP News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 10:58 AM
France, Germany hold out sanctions if Ukraine accords break

PARIS (AP) — France and Germany held out the possibility on Friday of sanctions if the Minsk accords to stabilize Ukraine are not respected.

President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for respect for the cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy arms during a joint news conference.

The two heads of state, along with the leaders of Ukraine and Russia, signed accords on Feb. 12 in a last-ditch effort to stabilize and bring peace to Ukraine — starting with a cease-fire that both Ukraine and rebels now say has been violated.

Hollande and Merkel initiated the agreement and said they are working ceaselessly for all two sides to respect it. Foreign ministers from the four countries are to meet on Tuesday in Paris, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Friday.

"Our action is to return as quickly as possible to an integral respect of the cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy weapons," Hollande said, noting the risk of escalation.

"Every country that doesn't keep its word necessarily risks constraint measures, sanctions," Hollande said in response to a question, but didn't elaborate.

The European Union earlier this week said it has added 19 more individuals on its Russia sanctions list for their actions linked to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, bringing the total number to 151. Thirty-seven entities have also hit with restrictive measures.

Merkel agreed that sanctions could be an outcome of non-respect of the agreements, but said she and Hollande had gone to Minsk to "bring a bit more peace and stability to this region."

She called the task "arduous," ''sluggish" and "hard."

The cease-fire was supposed to take effect five days ago. The accords were a second effort to bring the war to a halt, meant to kick start a September agreement signed in Minsk that was also largely ignored by the two sides.