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Italy's Demand Delays Extension Of EU Sanctions Against Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17

BRUSSELS -- Italy has once again delayed an attempt to extend the European Union's economic sanctions against Russia, despite an accord reached by EU diplomats earlier in the week for sanctions to be prolonged by another six months.

EU sources tell RFE/RL that Rome wants language included in the conclusions of the EU’s June 28-29 summit before it signs off on the deal to extend the sanctions.

Italy wants the summit conclusions to acknowledge a commitment for Brussels to review Russian policy later in 2016.

On June 21, ambassadors from all 28 EU countries agreed to extend the sanctions, which were imposed over Russia’s occupation and illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow’s support for pro-Russia separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Both the United Kingdom and France agreed to the extension, but only with a so-called parliamentary reserve. That means the ambassadors must first consult their national parliaments on the issue before signing off on the extension of sanctions.

Italy did not indicate any conditions during the June 21 meeting of EU ambassadors.

But Italy is now insisting on the inclusion of special language in the text of the EU summit conclusions.

That move is similar to what happened in December 2015 when Rome agreed to extend the current sanctions through the end of July.

EU diplomats told RFE/RL they have no doubt about the eventual extension of the sanctions, which target Russia’s banking and energy sectors as well as individuals in Russia.

But Italy’s latest demand means a final decision on extending the sanctions against Russia is likely to be postponed until after the gathering of EU leaders in late June.

“The review of the EU's Russia policy is likely to be held in the autumn anyway, so it is a bit strange that they want this in writing,” one EU source told RFE/RL.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.

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