France's foreign minister says Paris opposes any quick rethink of European sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression of Ukraine, insisting that their lifting be conditioned on advances in the peace process in Ukraine.
Jean-Yves Le Drian made the comments on June 6, after the incoming prime minister of Italy said he would push for a review of the EU sanctions that were imposed over Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"When we make progress [on ending the Ukrainian conflict] then we can start to raise the question of the sanctions and that is what we will tell Italy," Le Drian told France's Europe 1 radio.
Addressing senators in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on June 5 he will advocate "an opening toward Russia" and "promote a review of the sanctions system."
Conte spoke after the upper chamber of parliament voted to support his new populist coalition government. The lower chamber was expected to also approve the new government in a vote on June 6.
His remarks came as Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to neighboring Austria -- where one of the more Russia-friendly governments in the EU holds power -- said that "everybody has an interest in getting the sanctions lifted -- us too."
The sanctions, as well as a drop in oil prices, contributed to a two-year economic recession in Russia.
Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Kyiv's forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia are scheduled to gather in Berlin on June 11 to try to revive the peace process aimed at putting an end to the violence.
Cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords -- September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed to resolve the conflict -- have failed to hold.
A new cease-fire agreement was reached in late 2017 and was meant to begin on December 23, but both sides have accused each other of repeated violations since then.