EU should drop Russia sanctions, Slovak PM says after meeting Putin
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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (L) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool
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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on Friday renewed his call for the European Union to end sanctions against Russia after meeting President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, saying they had failed to influence the settlement of any key issues.
He made his comments on Facebook as Slovakia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, prepared to host a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers next week, with some central European countries expressing unease over the continuing sanctions on Russia.
The EU bloc imposed energy, financial and defense sanctions on Moscow after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 and agreed in June to extend them until the end of January. Separate sanctions, aimed at individuals, expire next month and may be extended.
Fico said: "Personally, I think it is time to view the sanctions rationally and to say that they harm both the EU and Russia."
"They have brought absolutely nothing to (solving) the sensitive questions which they were supposed to influence. We agreed with Vladimir Putin that our common pursuit is to revive our mutual trade again," Fico said in the comment which appeared on his Facebook page along with a photo of his Thursday meeting with Putin.
Slovakia imports almost all its gas and oil from Russia, as well as nuclear fuel to generate two power plants. It exports cars to Russia, though these are just a fraction of its exports to the EU.
Fico, who was re-elected for a third time as prime minister in March, has, like some other central European powers, consistently questioned the use of sanctions on Russia.
Hungary has taken a similar line. Czech President Milos Zeman, a backer of Russia, has repeatedly called for ending sanctions and the head of the upper house of the Czech parliament pleaded with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to end them when she visited Prague on Thursday.
Merkel said last week there was not reason to lift sanctions as Russia has not fulfilled its commitments under the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine where Kiev and the West say Russia is arming and supporting separatist rebels.
(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova and Robert Muller; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
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