World Bulletin/News Desk
Germany sees no reason to think about changes to the EU's sanctions regime against Moscow at the moment, a government spokeswoman said, after the foreign minister expressed concern that Russia could be destabilised if sanctions were not eased.
The spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told a news conference that the expiry of sanctions next year provided a "natural point in time" to debate whether they should continue and in what form.
The European Union imposed sanctions in a series of escalating steps starting in March of this year. Each round of sanctions is valid for 12 months, meaning they must be renewed in March 2015 if they are to remain in place.
"At the current time, we are all in agreement that new sanctions should not be introduced," Wirtz said. "And as long as the causes of the sanctions remain, as long as they haven't disappeared, then there is no reason to think about lifting the sanctions independent of the agreed time period."
The comments came after Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told German weekly Der Spiegel that he was worried Russia could be destabilised if EU sanctions were not eased.
Pointing to the dramatic fall in the rouble currency and declining energy prices, which have sparked an economic and financial crisis in Russia, Steinmeier said: "It cannot be in our interests that this runs out of control."
Steinmeier is a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who have traditionally favoured engagement with Russia over confrontation.
Until now, he has stuck closely to conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's firm line with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the comments to Der Spiegel suggested cracks may be emerging between the two.
Wirtz told the news conference that Merkel had spoken with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko over the weekend and that both had agreed on the need for a meeting of the so-called Contact Group - which includes envoys from Kiev, Moscow, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and pro-Russian separatists - to discuss prisoner exchanges and supplies for people living in eastern Ukraine.
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