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EU leaders push Ukraine diplomacy, show unity on sanctions

February 17, 2022 GMT
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Africa summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. European Union leaders meet with their African counterparts during a two-day summit in Brussels. The EU wants to re-engage with African nations and counter the growing influence from China and Russia across the continent. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Africa summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. European Union leaders meet with their African counterparts during a two-day summit in Brussels. The EU wants to re-engage with African nations and counter the growing influence from China and Russia across the continent. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Africa summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. European Union leaders meet with their African counterparts during a two-day summit in Brussels. The EU wants to re-engage with African nations and counter the growing influence from China and Russia across the continent. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Africa summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. European Union leaders meet with their African counterparts during a two-day summit in Brussels. The EU wants to re-engage with African nations and counter the growing influence from China and Russia across the continent. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Africa summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. European Union leaders meet with their African counterparts during a two-day summit in Brussels. The EU wants to re-engage with African nations and counter the growing influence from China and Russia across the continent. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leader held a short summit meeting Thursday to push the chances of diplomacy to unlock the standoff over Ukraine and reaffirm their joint determination to impose massive sanctions if Russia invades its neighbor.

The hastily called summit preceded a two-day EU-Africa meeting which brought the 27 EU leaders to Brussels. It did not go into deep detail of what sanctions should be used and how those measures would hit the economies of the member states.

But since unanimity among the 27 is needed to impose sanctions, any show of unity is welcome for the bloc.

“Sanctions require unanimity of the member states,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. “This unity is there in order to use it,” he said, and when asked if it included often recalcitrant Hungary, he added “I said, all.”

The main aim of the meeting was to make sure that even if potential sanctions hurt some member nations more than others, they would not affect the unity of the bloc.

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Borrell insisted that if there were to be a Russian aggression against Ukraine, he would immediately call the 27 EU foreign ministers to a special council “to propose the package of sanctions. And I’m sure that even when unanimity is required, the council will approve them.”

The EU has joined the United Kingdom and the United States in insisting that Russia would be hit with massive sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz joined others in warning about dire consequences, but said that “at the same time we want to use all diplomatic possibilities we have.”

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “diplomacy has not yet spoken its last word. That is good and we have still hope that peace will prevail.”

Von der Leyen joined calls for Russia to physically provide proof its troops are moving away from confrontation near the Ukraine border.

“Now we hear claims from Russia about pulling back troops, but we have not seen any signs so far of de-escalation on the ground,” she said. “To the contrary, we see that the build-up continues. Therefore, now we need deeds to trust the words we have heard. We will not let our guard down.”

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Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin

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More AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine