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Italian PM says renewal of EU sanctions on Russia should not be automatic

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday the renewal of European Economic sanctions against Russia should not be automatic.

European leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are due to extend until the end of January 2019 the sanctions imposed against Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, diplomats and officials said.

“We will reaffirm the principle that there should be nothing automatic about the renewal of sanctions,’’ Conte told parliament in a speech outlining Italy’s position on various issues ahead of the Brussels meeting.

“We need to be very careful about this. Sanctions should be a means and not constitute an end,’’ he said, adding that Italy would pay “great attention’’ to the interests of Italian companies.

The curbs on Russia’s energy, defence and financial sectors have been prolonged every six months since first being imposed in mid-2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula from Kiev and backed rebels fighting government troops in east Ukraine.

Moscow vows to never return Crimea and the east Ukraine conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, with low-intensity, sporadic fighting still taking place regularly.