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Obama, Merkel Say Russia Sanctions Should Stay In Place

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel embrace after delivering remarks in the Bavarian village of Krun on June 7.

The White House says President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both agreed that economic sanctions against Russia should remain in place until the "full implementation" of the Minsk II peace accord and Russia shows respect for its neighbor's sovereignty.

The two leaders met on June 7 before an annual summit of leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

Speaking later at the G7 summit in southern Germany, Merkel said that Moscow should stay out of the G7 "community of values" for now over its actions in Ukraine.

The two-day summit was expected to produce a declaration on Ukraine from all the participants.

Merkel said she expects the G7 leaders to send a "united signal."

"Sanctions can only be lifted if the conditions under which they were imposed are no longer there and the problems have been solved," Merkel told German public television ZDF.

Shortly after his arrival in Germany for the summit, Obama said that "standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine" would be raised during the talks.

The United States and its European allies imposed several rounds of economic penalties on Russia after it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

The Minsk II accord, agreed in February in the Belarus capital, has led to a drop in fighting, although an upsurge of violence has been reported recently in eastern Ukraine.

European monitors have blamed the recent bloodshed on Russian-backed separatists.

The West accuses Russia of backing the rebels, a charge Russia denies.

"If Minsk is implemented, sanctions will be lifted," Merkel told ZDF, adding that the punitive measures against Moscow are "are a tool to achieve goals."

"We have always said: There is a connection between the Minsk agreements and extension of sanctions, with the possibility of their cancelation," she added.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that more than half of the nearly 45-minute meeting between Merkel and Obama on June 7 was devoted to discussion of Russia and Ukraine.

The EU this month is set to vote on whether to continue the sanctions against Russia, and the White House appeared intent on stressing transatlantic unity on the issue.

“The commitment required by our European partners to implement and maintain these sanctions is significant,” Earnest said. “They have economies that are more integrated with Russia than the United States has, and so we recognize that many of the countries that we’re counting on to continue to enforce these sanctions are countries who do so at some sacrifice to their own economy.”

He added that “Russia has essentially thumbed their nose at the commitments that they made” in the Minsk agreement.

“Russia’s failure to live up to those commitments is what leads to their increasing isolation and the increasing costs being imposed on their economy,” Earnest said.

Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Europe had to stay united to keep sanctions on Russia in place despite any pain they caused the 28-nation bloc.

"We need to make sure Europe remains united," Cameron said.

Obama said during a meeting with Cameron that “we think that there can be a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to this problem.”

“But it’s going to require that Europe, the United States and the transatlantic partnership, as well as the world, stay vigilant and stay focused on the importance of upholding the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Obama said.

European Union President Donald Tusk said that since the Minsk II agreement has not been fully implemented, the only question for the 28-nation EU is whether to make the sanctions against Russia even tougher.

Tusk said Russia's possible return to the G8 would depend on a turn-around in Moscow's foreign policy.

Russia was excluded from the group – previously known as the G8 -- following Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year.

The G7 groups Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, TASS, and The New York Times
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