Austrian president voices doubts over Russia sanctions

Austria's president says he believes the sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea could be relaxed next year if there is progress in peace talks between Moscow and Kiev.

In comments to lawmakers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday, Heinz Fischer said that sanctions were not "an end in themselves" and that both Russia and Europe would be better off if ties were normalized.

Fischer, who recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that "maybe in a year's time we are ready and the process of reducing sanctions can start." He warned that would be contingent on progress being made in peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine — something he said both sides seemed to find difficult.