G7 leaders vow to keep sanctions against Russia
G7 leaders at a summit in the Bavarian Alps vowed to keep sanctions against Russia in place until President Vladimir Putin and Moscow-backed separatists fully implement the terms of a peace deal for Ukraine.
The Ukraine conflict and a long-running debt standoff between Greece and its European partners dominated the first day of the annual meeting hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Elmau, a luxury Alpine hotel in southern Germany.
Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests to tackle global warming ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Paris in December.
The German agenda also foresees discussions on global health issues, from Ebola to antibiotics and tropical diseases. But Ukraine took center stage on Sunday, with US President Barack Obama calling for "standing up to Russian aggression".
The leaders want Russia and Ukraine to comply with a Feb. 12 ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk that largely halted fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
EU leaders agreed in March that sanctions imposed over Russia's seizure and annexation of Crimea and detribalization of eastern Ukraine would stay until the Minsk ceasefire was fully applied, effectively extending them to the end of the year, but a formal decision has yet to be taken.
Merkel said any easing of the sanctions depended largely on Russia and its behavior in Ukraine.
European Council President Donald Tusk went further, saying: "If anyone wants to start a discussion about changing the sanctions regime, it could only be about strengthening it."
European monitors have blamed a recent upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine on the pro-Moscow separatists. Russian President Vladimir Putin was frozen out of what used to be the G8 after Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year.
Elsewhere, President Obama has pressed David Cameron to maintain Britain's commitment to meeting the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
Despite signs of concern from Washington about impending UK defence cuts, Mr Cameron has steadfastly declined to commit to the 2% benchmark beyond March 2016, saying that any decision must await Chancellor George Osborne's Spending Review in the autumn.
Before meeting Mr Obama for one-on-one talks at the G7 summit in Germany, the Prime Minister announced the deployment of a further 125 Army trainers to Iraq, to help the Baghdad authorities take on the Islamic State extremist group which has seized large swathes of the country as well as parts of neighbouring Syria.
But the announcement was overshadowed by the US President's concern over defence cuts, as well as his comment that America was "looking forward" to Britain remaining in the European Union.
Following the bilateral talks at the Schloss Elmau hotel in the Bavarian Alps, where leaders of seven major industrialised states are meeting for the annual G7 summit, a Downing Street source said that Mr Obama had "touched on" the issue of whether Britain would continue to meet the 2% target.
"The president underlined the importance of the UK and US as the two pillars of Nato, and said he accepted the fiscal challenges but hoped that the UK would find a way to meet it," said the source.
Additional reporting PA