Steinmeier sceptical on sanctions against Russia

Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmeier is opposed to proposals to slap EU sanctions on Russia, he told a German newspaper on Friday.

Steinmeier sceptical on sanctions against Russia
Photo: DPA

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he rejected sanctions as a way to pressure Russia in the Caucasus conflict and warned of ending dialogue with Moscow.

“Someone has to explain to me what a sanction against Russia would consist of,” Steinmeier told the paper. “Even in this serious political situation it’s important to maintain our senses. At the end of the day we are still going to have Russia as a neighbour … and it is in our own interest to return to a normal relationship,” he said.

The daily also cited sources at the German foreign ministry saying that there was no mention of sanctions in the documents drawn up for a special summit of the European Union on Monday in Brussels to debate how to deal with Russia.

French Foreign Minister Bernhard Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said on Thursday that some EU members were considering imposing sanctions on Moscow and that Paris wanted a “strong text” to come out of the summit.

However, Kouchner later denied reports saying he was in favor of sanctions against Russia. A spokesman at the French foreign ministry said Kouchner had not explicitly backed sanctions but had said France would seek to achieve a common position if the EU did ever consider imposing some sanctions.

Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski was reported to make a push for sanctions against Moscow during Monday’s EU summit.

Relations between the West and Russia have plummeted since fighting broke out between Georgia and Russia earlier this month, prompted by a Georgian offensive to bring the breakaway region of South Ossetia under its control.

Russia has since halted its five-day long offensive into neighbouring Georgia but has failed to withdraw all its troops from Georgian territory. It has also recognized the independence of South Ossetia and fellow rebel region Abkhazia, further fuelling tensions with the West.

Meanwhile Germany’s Economy Minister Michael Glos was told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday that he was mulling the idea of a national natural gas reserve in case the dispute led to an interruption of Russian gas supplies.

“The Georgian conflict shows that we must not increase our gas dependence,” Glos said. “We must consider whether we should take similar precautions with gas that we do with oil,” adding that the for which the country has constituted a strategic reserve of oil.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, gets around 40 percent of its gas from