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Thu Jan 8, 2015, 01:55 AM


(Last week): Hollande eyes end to Russia sanctions

French President François Hollande discussed the options for lifting sanctions on Russia, ruled out unilateral military action in Libya and addressed Greece’s looming snap election in a wide-ranging interview Monday on France Inter radio.

The French president said biting Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted if progress were made in resolving the Ukraine crisis. "I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will remain," he said. The sanctions began in March after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and have since been stepped up amid claims Russia is stoking separatist conflict in the country’s east. "Mr Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine... The crisis in Ukraine has prevented France from completing the delivery of two "Mistral-class" warships to Russia. Paris has pushed back the delivery of the €1.2 billion vessels "until further notice", and could be liable for a hefty fine if it breaches the contract.

Greece ‘free to choose’

With three weeks to go ahead of a critical general election in Greece, Hollande said the Greeks were “free to choose their own destiny” but also bound by their European commitments. Polls say the January 25 snap election could see victory for the left-wing Syriza party, which has vowed to scrap austerity policies imposed by Greece’s EU partners and negotiate a write-off of half the country’s debt. The prospect of a Syriza government has roiled jittery markets and revived fears of a Greek exit from the eurozone. Hollande’s warning not to interfere with the Greek election has been interpreted as a swipe at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has described a Greek exit from the euro as “almost inevitable” should Syriza come to power. Greece alone can decide," Hollande said, though adding that “there are certain engagements that have been made [by Greek governments] and all those must be of course be respected".


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