German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that EU leaders would not decide on new economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis at their summit this week, but could do so in June.
Merkel said at a joint press conference with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the two-day EU summit starting Thursday would focus on how to help ensure last month's Minsk peace deal is fully implemented.
"It's always been said that if gross violations... occur, then one will also decide on further sanctions."
"But that's not our principal point," she said.
Concrete measures imposing more sanctions would "not legally be decided" at the March EU summit, but rather would be "politically" discussed, with possible decisions in June, she added.
Leaders of the bloc's 28 member states have until July to make a final decision on extending sanctions targeting specific economic sectors, including Russia's banks and its oil industry.
Poroshenko told reporters that he and Merkel agreed there was no alternative to the Minsk deal between Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels, which Merkel helped to broker in the Belarussian capital in February.
He was quoted by Germany's Bild newspaper Monday as saying the month-old accord was "not working," and accused the rebels of continuing to attack government positions on a daily basis.
European Council president Donald Tusk warned in comments also published Monday in several European newspapers that there must be no compromise with Russia over sanctions.