WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 - The United States might waver on Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia but Europe will not, so long as a standing agreement to stop the fighting in Ukraine is not fully implemented, the European Union's foreign policy chief said Friday, The Weekly Standard reported.
After meetings in Washington, D.C. with lawmakers and administration officials, Federica Mogherini expressed some uncertainty about whether the United States would maintain sanctions on Russia related to the Kremlin's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"The European position is clear on this. I am confident it will continue to be clear in unity," she said during an event at the Atlantic Council. "But I cannot answer for the U.S. I can say I was receiving reassuring messages. But I don't know if there will be divisions in the U.S. on this. I hope not."
Mogherini said that during her visit, administration officials agreed to maintain sanctions on Russia until a 2015 cease-fire deal to stop the fighting in Ukraine, known as the Minsk agreement, is fully implemented. However, she was unsure of whether that position would stick.
"My meetings were positive and in particular we agreed that as long as the Minsk agreements are not fully implemented, sanctions will remain in place," she said. "But I don't know if this is going to be the consolidated policy."
"I was not in the Oval Office when President Trump called President Putin, but for us, this is an essential point," she said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was especially open to discussions about how to implement the Minsk agreement, she added, and noted that Congress is also unified on keeping sanctions pressure on Russia.
"I believe that this is not an essential point only for Europeans. I think that in Congress this is an essential point as well," she said.
Tillerson indicated support for providing lethal aid to Ukraine in the fight against Russian-backed separatists during his confirmation hearing. Other Trump administration officials have said that sanctions related to Ukraine will be maintained until Russia ceases its activities there.
Still, lawmakers, unsettled by President Trump's vows to improve relations with the Kremlin, have introduced legislation to codify and ramp up Russia sanctions, as well as legislation that would slow potential moves to lift them. (ws/ez)