November 21, 2015 / 10:10 PM / 2 years ago

Western leaders agreed to extend Russia sanctions by six months: diplomat

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a video conference with Russia's personnel engaged in Syria military operation, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin

(Reuters) - Western leaders who met on the margins of last week’s Group of 20 summit in Turkey agreed to extend sanctions imposed on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine by six months until July of next year, a senior European diplomat told Reuters.

The decision was taken despite mounting calls to cooperate more closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the fight against Islamic State following the militant group’s Nov. 13 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who represented President Francois Hollande at the summit, attended the brief meeting near the conclusion of the G20 meeting in Antalya.

The sanctions are due to expire in January, before full implementation of the so-called Minsk peace deal, which aims to resolve the standoff between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Western countries have said all elements of Minsk need to be fulfilled before they can consider easing the sanctions.

In particular, the diplomat said, the leaders had concluded that it was important to maintain pressure on Russia ahead of planned elections in eastern Ukraine.

“The elections in Ukraine are heavy lifting,” the diplomat said, requesting anonymity because the agreement in Antalya was confidential.

“We only have a chance to get what we want if we play the sanctions card. Financial sanctions need to stay in place until the bitter end,” the diplomat added.

Following the attacks, Hollande has called for a grand coalition of nations to fight Islamic State, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq. The French president is due to travel to Moscow on Nov. 26 to discuss closer cooperation with Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will dine with Hollande in Paris the evening before his trip and, according to German officials, will urge him to remain firm on the sanctions question while in Moscow.

Editing by Ralph Boulton

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