BERLIN, March 17 (Reuters) - Europe and the United States should keep sanctions in place against Russia until there is progress in implementing the 2015 Minsk accords aimed at ending the violence in eastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.
Tensions are again running high between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists: Kiev this week cut off cargo shipments from the breakaway regions until the separatists hand back control of businesses they have seized.
"It is important that Europe and the United States present a unified front and stick to the sanctions against Russia until there is progress in implementing the Minsk agreements," Gabriel said in an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, to be published on Saturday.
"So far the United States has supported this common understanding and I hope it stays that way," he added.
Chancellor Angela Merkel held her first meeting on Friday with U.S. President Donald Trump, who said he appreciated the leadership of Germany and France in trying to find a peaceful solution in Ukraine.
Trump's positive comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign for the White House last year have made Ukrainian officials nervous that he might be inclined to relax the economic sanctions.
Merkel, who will travel to Moscow in May, said in Washington she was working for a "safe and secure solution for Ukraine, but the relationship with Russia has to be improved as well."
More than 10,000 people have been killed in three years of conflict in eastern Ukraine. Merkel said there had not been the desired progress in implementing the Minsk accords, but Germany would continue to work to ensure they were implemented.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)