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Ukraine crisis: Macron says 'concrete solutions' possible between Russia and West

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish President Andrzej Duda and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a joint press conference in Berlin, 8 February 2022
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish President Andrzej Duda and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a joint press conference in Berlin, 8 February 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Emmanuel Macron has said during a visit to Kyiv that he believes it is "possible to take the negotiations further" concerning Russia and Ukraine.

Appearing alongside his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy following three hours of talks, the French president added he thought "concrete, practical solutions" were possible to reach an end to the crisis between Russia and the West.

Later, Macron headed to Berlin to see Olaf Scholz upon the German Chancellor's return from Washington, along with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

At a news conference after meeting Zelenskyy, Macron said Putin told him during their more than five-hour session Monday that “he won’t be initiating an escalation. I think it is important”.

Macron's visit on Tuesday came a day after his long meeting with Vladimir Putin, as the diplomatic drive continues to defuse tensions in the military standoff between Russia and Ukraine.

Zelenskyy told the joint news conference that he would welcome concrete steps from Putin for de-escalation, adding he didn’t “trust words in general.”

He called his talks with his French counterpart “very fruitful”, adding that he expected another meeting of the so-called Normandy contact group, involving Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany "very soon".

“We have a common view with President Macron on threats and challenges to the security of Ukraine, of the whole of Europe, of the world in general,” Zelenskyy said.

He said France was giving €1.2 billion in financial aid to Ukraine and helping restore infrastructure in the war-ravaged east of the country.

Macron sought to temper expectations.

“Let’s not be naive,” he said. "Since the beginning of the crisis, France hasn’t been inclined to exaggerate, but at the same time, I don’t believe this crisis can be settled in a few hours, through discussions.”

Ahead of his trip to Kyiv, Macron paid tribute to his Ukrainian counterpart for the "great self-control" Zelenskyy has shown in face of the deployment of tens of thousands of Russian troops to his country's border.

Unity on preventing war in Europe

After Moscow and Kyiv, Macron landed in Berlin on Tuesday evening, where he called for a challenging dialogue with the Kremlin because it is "the only way that will make peace possible in Ukraine".

"Together we must find the ways and means to engage in a rigorous dialogue with Russia," Macron said at a press conference in Berlin. "The re-engagement of this dialogue is the only way that will make peace in Ukraine possible," he assured.

"The peace and stability of the European continent is our treasure, and we have to do everything in order to preserve it," Macron said.

"Secondly, we need to consolidate and constantly defend the unity of Europeans and allies. This is how we prepared our meetings and this is how we advance on this path."

"Third, we need to defend the principles that have made the EU in the past thirty years, particularly respect of the sovereignty of every state, territorial integrity and the respect of our values defined in our charters," he concluded.

Olaf Scholz said that Germany, France and Poland are "united" in their goal “to prevent a war in Europe," as he hosted Macron and President Andrzej to discuss the Ukrainian crisis.

Peacekeeping must be done "through diplomacy and clear messages, as well as the common will to act together," Scholz said at a press briefing held before a working dinner with the two presidents.

Duda echoed the thoughts of Macron and Scholz, stating he believes it is possible to "avoid war”.

Convergence with Russia possible, says Macron

Hoping to force a breakthrough in the stalemate, the French leader said following his Moscow meeting that "a number of propositions" had emerged from his talks with Vladimir Putin, which lasted several hours.

Speaking on the plane flying him from Moscow, Macron claimed to have succeeded in ensuring that there would be "no deterioration nor escalation" in the crisis.

"For me, it was about blocking the game to prevent an escalation and open new perspectives," he added. "For me, this objective has been achieved."

A "deterioration of the continent's stability" was in nobody's interest, he said, stressing the "necessity to work fast to avoid escalation".

According to the Elysée, Macron's proposals include a commitment by both sides to abstain from new military moves, to begin a dialogue on Russia's military capability and peace negotiations over the conflict in Ukraine, as well as on strategy.

"Building, together and in line with our fundamentals, concrete security guarantees for members of the European Union, for countries in the region -- Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus -- and Russia, is precisely the challenge we need to take up," Macron said.

"We had a conversation that saw a number of propositions emerge on which I think, between Russia and France, I can say we converge towards."

He added that France was pushing for existing accords to be respected and for a lasting solution to the crisis.

Seven years ago, France helped create a peace deal for eastern Ukraine in a bid to end fighting there. A conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists erupted in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Putin agreed that some of Macron's proposals could serve as a basis for a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, adding that they agreed to have a call after the French president's visit to the country.

The Russian president described his meeting with Macron at the Kremlin as businesslike but derided Western criticism of Russia's military buildup near the Ukrainian border.

The US and its NATO allies have ignored Moscow's demands for security guarantees, Putin claimed. He dismissed their claims about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, adding that designating Russia as an enemy was "the military strategy of NATO of 2019".

Germany and US 'united'

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Washington after his meeting with Joe Biden on Monday that Germany and US were "absolutely united" on sanctions against Russia.

But Scholz did not go as far as the American president, who said at the joint White House press conference that there would "no longer be Nord Stream 2" if Russia further invaded Ukraine with "tanks or troops".

Germany and the UK have both decided to send additional troops to NATO battle groups in Eastern Europe, the two countries' defence ministers said on Monday.

Berlin is to send 350 more soldiers to Lithuania as part of a NATO operation. Scholz said on Sunday that Germany was ready to send troops to the Baltic states.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Monday that Europe is facing its most serious security threat since the Cold War.

Western countries accuse Russia of planning a potential invasion of Ukraine — which Moscow denies, arguing it only wants to guarantee Russian security by stopping NATO's eastward expansion.

Russia has amassed 130,000 troops at the Ukrainian border and is conducting joint war games with its ally Belarus.