Brussels: The European Union failed to reach agreement on when the latest economic sanctions against Russia should be implemented and will meet again Thursday for more talks, a diplomatic source said.
The 28 member state ambassadors to the EU will "continue today`s discussion on the restrictive measures, allowing for further assessment of the situation on the ground and additional consultations," the source said.
An EU summit agreed late last month on the need for another package of tough economic sanctions after Russia allegedly sent troops and heavy equipment into eastern Ukraine to support pro-Moscow rebels there.
The sanctions were agreed last Friday but on the same day Kiev and Moscow agreed a ceasefire and peace plan, forcing a rethink of when the measures should be introduced.
The 28 ambassadors agreed Monday on implementing the package but with the caveat that it be linked to the ceasefire and only introduced "in a few days," rather than immediately as had been expected at first.
Amid confusion about what that meant in practice and with some member states apparently preferring to wait and see rather than introduce the sanctions straight away, the officials decided to meet again Wednesday.
Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister and incoming EU foreign affairs chief, said Wednesday the most important thing was that the EU remain united on the sanctions package or else it could strengthen Moscow.
Asked when the sanctions should be brought into force, Mogherini said "it is first wise to find unity on timing".
"If we do not stand united... this is going to be our weakness and Russia`s strength," she told a seminar, adding that Italy`s role, as current holder of the EU`s rotating presidency, was to "find consensus."
There was "a debate going on what is the (best) time" to impose the sanctions given that the Ukraine ceasefire appeared to be holding, Mogherini said.
The EU did not want to give a "contradictory signal" which could undermine peace efforts, she added, noting that some member states wanted to take the issue back up to EU leaders in an effort to get agreement.
In practice, the member states have to decide when to publish the sanctions in the EU`s Official Journal, the legal step which puts them into effect.
Details of the measures will also only become known at that stage.
Diplomats say they would likely limit access to financial markets by Russian oil companies such as Rosneft and Transneft plus the petroleum unit of gas giant Gazprom.
They cover the same four areas as previous measures adopted in July -- capital markets, defence, dual-use goods with both military and civilian capabilities, and oil technology, they added.