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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Macron responds to Putin criticism

The French leader demanded that Moscow respect “Ukrainian interests and sovereignty”

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is open to renewed dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin if it leads to “lasting peace” in Ukraine, responding after Putin blamed Paris for deteriorating relations.

Addressing reporters after a meeting in Brussels on Friday, Macron claimed that Russia’s military operation in Ukraine had made discussions “virtually impossible,” but said he would again be willing to hold talks to bring an end to the conflict.

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“If President Putin has a willingness to engage in dialogue and serious proposals to move forward and emerge from the conflict and build a lasting peace, that is to say one that respects international law and therefore Ukrainian interests and sovereignty, I’ll take the call,” Macron said, adding, “I haven’t changed my number.”

The reply came just one day after Putin stated that “the French president stopped the relationship with us. We didn’t do it, I didn’t. He did,” noting the two countries previously had a “quite good working relationship” and that Russia is “ready to cooperate with France further.”

“If there’s interest, we’re ready. If not, we’ll cope. We have other things to do,” he continued, answering a French journalist at his year-end news conference on Thursday.

Diplomatic ties between Russia and France have declined significantly since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 – though in contrast to many other Western states, the two sides maintained contacts for several months into the conflict.

Macron and Putin’s last in-person meeting took place just days before fighting kicked off, during which the French leader declared his country had a “responsibility to have the strongest possible relationship with Russia.” However, Paris soon joined a Western sanctions campaign against Moscow and bilateral ties have steadily declined since.

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Along with German, Russian, and Ukrainian officials, France helped to negotiate the Minsk agreements to resolve the conflict in the Donbass region in 2014 and the following year, but the accords later broke down. Speaking of the ill-fated peace efforts last year, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the deals were merely “an attempt to give Ukraine time” to “get stronger,” an assessment later echoed by ex-French President Francois Hollande, both of whom were still in office when the agreements were signed