BERLIN, March 17 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that Europe had shown great unity on the Ukraine crisis but it had not been an easy decision to impose sanctions on Russia for a referendum in occupied Crimea and its refusal to talk to the government in Kiev.
"It was a decision that nobody took lightly," she told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
"It wasn't our aim. We wanted talks and a diplomatic solution but the clear violation of international law yesterday with the so-called referendum meant we had to take this step and I am glad that Europe showed such unity," Merkel said.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown and Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Noah Barkin)