German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has suggested that the European Union might gradually reduce sanctions if Moscow takes steps to fulfill its obligations under a peace accord with Ukraine.
"I hope that by the end of June there will be progress and then we can see if we can reduce the sanctions step by step, or if we stay with the measures we have right now," Steinmeier told reporters on a visit to Tallinn on May 27.
"If there is no progress, an evaluation will also be necessary," he said. "It is not our aim to maintain the sanctions but to resolve the conflict."
Steinmeier has previously said that resistance to the sanctions is growing within the EU, so finding unanimous agreement among all 28 EU members before the sanctions expire next month will be difficult without compromise.
His willingness to consider providing some sanctions relief to Moscow contrasts with statements this week by British Prime Minister David Cameron and EU President Donald Tusk that they expect the sanctions to be extended without change.
The Group of Seven economic powers, which includes Germany, also called for extending the sanctions on May 27.
Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax