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France, Germany and Poland call for unity to ‘avoid a war in Europe’

France, Germany and Poland affirmed their unity to “avoid a war in Europe” after an intense diplomatic round by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he believed in “concrete solutions” to the Russian-Western crisis over the situation in Ukraine.

The three countries are “united” to preserve peace in Europe “through diplomacy and clear messages, as well as the common will to act together,” assured German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who received the French and Polish presidents .

This working dinner in Berlin was the last stage of Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic tour, which included a long face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday and then with Volodimir Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, on Tuesday, in search of a diplomatic solution in a context of unprecedented tensions since the end of the Cold War.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said he believed it was still possible to “avoid war”, while Macron called for “a demanding dialogue with Russia” as “the only way to achieve peace in Ukraine”, in statements before their meeting.

Ukrainian soldiers, in the combat zone with separatists in the Donetsk area, this Wednesday. Photo: AP

cautious optimism

For his part, the chief diplomat of the European Union (EU), Josep Borrell, was cautiously optimistic, noting that Macron’s visit to Moscow created “an element of detente” but that “it did not produce a miracle”.

“As long as people are willing to sit down and talk, I think there is hope of avoiding a military confrontation,” the Spanish diplomat told reporters at the end of his visit to Washington.

The presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops on the border makes Western countries fear an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which already annexed Crimea in 2014 and has supported separatists at war with Ukrainian forces since that year. a conflict that has left more than 13,000 dead and has never ended despite the Minsk peace accords.

Speaking to the press in Kiev, Macron, whose country currently chairs the EU, assured that he obtained a “double commitment” from the governments of Ukraine and Russia to respect these agreements, and indicated that he believed in “concrete practical solutions” to achieve a de-escalation

“We cannot underestimate the moment of tension that we are experiencing. We cannot resolve this crisis in a few hours of talks,” he warned, however.

Waiting for a diplomatic solution, he claimed to have obtained promises from Putin during their meeting on Monday night: “He told me that it would not be the cause of the escalation.”

separatist-forces

another summit

For his part, Zelensky said he looks forward to the upcoming summit on the Ukraine crisis with the Russian, French and German leaders on the peace process in eastern Ukraine, with a first council meeting in Berlin on Thursday.

The French president is the first high-level Western leader to meet with Putin since tensions escalated in December. Olaf Scholz will also visit Kiev and Moscow next week.

After their meeting, Putin considered that “some ideas” from his French counterpart could “lay the foundations for common progress” and he plans to speak with him again after his trip to Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin, in the Kremlin on Monday.  Photo: REUTERS

Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin, in the Kremlin on Monday. Photo: REUTERS

Vladimir Putin’s demands

Putin, who did not say anything about the Russian troops deployed on the border with Ukraine, once again denounced the West’s refusal to give in and put an end to NATO’s enlargement policy and to withdraw its military assets from Eastern Europe. Russia presented its demands as the conditions for de-escalation.

But according to the French presidency, Putin agreed to consider Macron’s proposalsamong them the commitment not to take new military initiatives on the part of either side, the start of a dialogue on the Russian military device and carry out peace talks about the Ukraine conflict.

“Red lines”

On Monday, the Ukrainian government had insisted on three “red lines”: no compromise on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, no direct negotiations with the separatists and no interference in its foreign policy.

On a military level, Russia would also agree to withdraw its troops from Belarus once the maneuvers are completed in February.

“No one has ever said that Russian forces will remain on Belarusian territory,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said. “These are joint exercises and, of course, this assumes that the troops will return to their bases at the end of these exercises,” he added.

However, further south, six Russian warships are leaving the Mediterranean for the Black Sea as part of maritime maneuvers announced last month, an area of ​​tension because it borders Ukraine, Russia, the annexed Crimean peninsula and several NATO countries.

Ukraine plans to carry out large-scale military exercises between February 10 and 20, with combat drones purchased from Turkey and anti-tank missiles supplied by Washington and London, in parallel with the Russian-Belarusian exercises.

The United States, Germany and the United Kingdom have also sent military reinforcements to Europe.

Ania Tsoukanova contributed from Kiev. AFP

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