Leaders of the G7 group of industrial nations have limited themselves to warning Russia of another round of sanctions as they urged President Vladimir Putin to stop destabilising Ukraine.
On the first day of the group’s summit in Brussels on Wednesday, the bloc said that Putin must pull Russian troops back from his country’s border with Ukraine and stem the pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country.
“Actions to destabilise eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop,” said the group in a joint statement after the meeting.
“We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.”
However, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that further sanctions would take effect only if there had been “no progress whatsoever”.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Brussels, said: “The G7 leader are talking here again about tougher sanctions on Russia. But they are talking about the same tougher sanctions they have been talking about for months now.”
Meanwhile, Putin reached out a hand towards dialogue, despite being banned from the summit following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, saying that he was ready to meet Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko and US President Barack Obama.
Obama has shown no signs of wanting a meeting with Putin, despite the fact that both leaders will be in France’s Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings in Europe.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the US of seeking to restrict Russian potentials for preserving its own global leadership.
“The paradox is that it all takes place contradictory to obvious and objective benefit, which both parts of the European continent could have yielded by uniting technologies, resources and human capital,” Lavrov said.
“To a certain extent, such contradiction can be explained by the fact that the course aimed to restrict Russia’s abilities is led not by the European countries, but the United States in the first place.”
Further talks on Ukraine
Ukraine is again expected to dominate the second day of the G7’s talks on Thursday, with Europe’s gas dependency and energy security, climate change, an ambitious EU-US trade pact, and the global economy also high on the agenda.
On Friday, leaders of France, Germany and Britain will meet Putin in Normandy to seek to de-escalate the worst East-West crisis in decades.
The crisis began when then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich rejected an association deal with the EU late last year, triggering protests that ended in his downfall in February, and were followed by months of clashes between the new government and pro-Moscow rebels.
The West imposed sanctions on Russia for its alleged involvement in the conflict, but some European leaders whose economies are exposed to Moscow have chosen to limit pressure on Putin.