Elmau (Germany), Jun 7: Several Group of Seven leaders presented a united front on upholding their sanctions against Russia as they opened their annual summit today, making clear that now is not the time for a softer stance.
This year's meeting of the leading industrialized democracies was the second in a row without Russia, which was ejected from what was the G-8 last year over its actions in Ukraine.
Even with President Vladimir Putin absent, Russia was prominent in the leaders' minds as they gathered in the Bavarian Alps. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama agreed during a pre-summit bilateral meeting that the duration of sanctions imposed upon Moscow should be "clearly linked to Russia's full implementation of the Minsk" peace accord agreed in February, the White House said in a statement. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, another summit participant, were central to drawing up that accord.
The summit was expected to produce a declaration on Ukraine from all the participants. Merkel said she expects the G-7 leaders to send a "united signal." In an interview with ZDF television, Merkel stressed however that sanctions are not an end in themselves and they "can be dispensed with when the conditions under which they were introduced are no longer there and the problems are resolved."
She said that "we have a chance if everyone makes an effort that is to some extent in Russia's hands and of course in Ukraine's." Heading in to the talks, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would push for Europe to stand firm with sanctions against Russia even though some countries especially cash-strapped Greece were suffering economically because of declining investment and tourists from Russia.