Macron says he could visit Russia to discuss Ukraine – News

The French president has claimed in recent years that Europe must keep the channels open to talk with Russia



Reuters file

By Reuters

Published: Thu 3 Feb 2022, 06:43

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he could visit Russia to discuss the Ukraine crisis, adding that his plans would depend on progress in upcoming phone talks with world leaders.

Macron said he would speak “in the next few hours” to his US counterpart Joe Biden about the crisis over Russia’s deployment of some 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine.

He said he would also maintain contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I’m not ruling anything out,” the president told reporters during a visit to Tourcoing in northern France on Wednesday, raising the possibility of a trip to Russia to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“The most important thing is first to continue European coordination and to continue exchanges with President Putin and President Zelensky,” he said.

“Depending on the progress of our discussions made in the hours to come, I do not rule out any initiative or travel,” he said.

The buildup of Russian troops near the border with eastern Ukraine has raised fears in the West that the Kremlin is planning to invade its pro-EU neighbor.

Russia denies plans to invade, but has demanded sweeping security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.

“I am very concerned about the situation on the ground,” the French president said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU interior ministers.

“The priority for me on the Ukrainian question and the dialogue with Russia is de-escalation and finding the political terms for a way out of the crisis.”

Macron had said this week that Russia was behaving as an “imbalance power” in the region – but had also made it clear that he was open to dialogue with Moscow to defuse the situation.

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The French president has asserted in recent years that Europe must keep the channels open to speak with Russia.

He insisted that a “demanding dialogue” is preferable to an open confrontation with Moscow in a rapidly changing world dominated by the rise of China.

He has had repeated telephone talks with Putin over the past few days and French officials have taken a somewhat softer tone than some NATO counterparts on the likelihood of Russian military action.

The presidency later said Macron would speak to Putin again on Thursday evening.

Christi C. Elwood