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French MPs slam renewed EU sanctions on Russia visit

French opposition politician Thierry Mariani
French opposition politician Thierry Mariani Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

A group of French opposition MPs wrapped up a two-day visit to Moscow on Friday, the fourth such trip this year.Thierry Mariani, from the right-wing Republicans, headed the  delegation. He reiterated his hostile stance to European Union sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

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The visit coincided with Friday's decision by EU leaders meeting in Brussels, to formally extend economic sanctions against Russia until July 2016.

The EU first imposed economic penalties after the July 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet, blamed on pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

In March EU leaders agreed to link the economic sanctions to Russia's full implementation of a Ukraine ceasefire brokered by France and Germany in Minsk.

Copresident of the French-Russian Dialogue Association, Thierry Mariani was invited by the Russian Peace Foundation. He and his delegates met with the president of the Russian parliament known as the Duma and with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Mariani said he regretted that the French government had not debated the sanctions.

"I put forward a resolution to the National Assembly so that the French parliament could at least once express itself on the subject," he said.

He is particularly critical of the position of France when it comes to its dealings with Russia over the Syrian crisis.

Negotiations to end the conflict there are currently underway.

"Politically, the sanctions don't serve any purpose," Mariani said. "The situation in Ukraine is still the same, economically they spell disaster for relations between Europe and Russia and I add that they have now become illogical. How can we ask help from a country against terrorism and at the same time punish it with sanctions?"

Another European country has expressed doubts too about the sanctions process, for a different reason.

Earlier this week Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi led a push to delay rolling over economic sanctions against Russia, amid reports that Rome was frustrated with what it saw as a hypocritical stance by Berlin.

A group of EU member states led by Italy criticised a German pipeline project with Russia on Friday, tasking the European Commission with probing whether it met Europe's energy rules.

Formally known as Nordstream 2, the pipeline under the Baltic Sea has angered some EU diplomats who accuse Germany of selfishly seeking a reliable energy supply route with Vladimir Putin's Russia all while pressuring other countries to back economic sanctions against Moscow.

Renzi said after the summit Friday that Italy still believed that Russian help was needed to solve pressing internatioal issues, such as the Syrian conflict and the terrorist threat of Islamic State.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Nordstream was above all a commercial accord concerning companies and not nations, a claim that Renzi dismissed.

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