EU President Herman Van Rompuy. (Agence France-Presse)
BRUSSELS — EU leaders meeting here Thursday have called for Russia to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine, warned of further sanctions if talks with Russia do not bear fruit and are pushing to establish a contact group with Russia.
In a statement released after their meeting, EU leaders called on Russia to “immediately withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing,” “to enable immediate access for international monitors,” and described the decision by the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to hold a referendum as “illegal.”
Calling for talks between the Ukraine and Russia, including through potential multilateral mechanisms such as a contact group, the EU warned that it would impose sanctions such as “travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of the EU-Russia summit” if negotiations failed to produce results within a limited time frame.
It also said that “any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilize the situation in Ukraine would lead to severe and far-reaching consequences” for relations between the European Union and Russia, including “a broad range of economic areas.”
Asked if sanctions might be imposed on people such as Russian President Vladmir Putin and his inner circle, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said that he would “answer that at the appropriate time.”
With regard to the contact group, French President François Hollande said he expected the EU to be involved “in some way or another” and for it to include “countries with a role in the dialogue,” Ukraine and Russia.
“It would be in Russia’s interests to seize the opportunity of using the contact group,” he said. Asked about whether an arms embargo was being considered, he said that “gradual measures [sanctions]” is the route being considered. These might be suspended if there is dialogue, but others could be added if there is no dialogue, he said. ■