Ukraine: Nato chief warns of conflict with Russian
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Speaking in Paris ahead of crunch talks between the United States and Russia next week, the EU Commission chief sent a thinly-veiled warning to her US counterparts.
She said: “One thing is clear: no solution without Europe. Whatever the solution, Europe has to be involved.”
Speaking alongside Ms von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “It’s a good thing that there are discussions between the United States and Russia.
“The coordination between the Europeans and Americans is exemplary on the matter.
“Dialogue does not mean making concessions.”
France’s foreign minister also said on Friday that Russia was trying to bypass the European Union by holding talks directly with the United States over Ukraine.
Talks between US and Russian diplomats will begin in Geneva on Monday after weeks of tensions over Russian troop deployments near its border with neighbouring Ukraine, with envoys on each side trying to avert a crisis.
Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio: “(Russian President) Vladimir Putin wants to bypass the European Union… he wants to put dents in the EU cohesion, which is solidifying.
“You can’t envisage EU security without the Europeans.”
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France has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU.
Russia has moved nearly 100,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine. It says it is not preparing for an invasion but wants to see the West back off from its support for Ukraine’s government and has demanded guarantees that NATO will not expand further eastwards.
Referring to the conference between World War Two Allied powers in February 1945 that gave the Soviet Union control over its eastern European neighbours, Le Drian added: “Putin has proposed to discuss with NATO to sort of return to the zones of influence from the past…which would mean Russia restore the spirit of Yalta.
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“This is not our point of view, but we have to accept the discussion.”
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and condemnation from the West. Kyiv wants the territory back.
Le Drian said any further military incursion into Ukraine by Russia would bring “serious strategic consequences”, with one option being a review of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
He said that despite Putin’s assurances that he was beginning to withdraw troops from the region, Paris had yet to see that happen.
Senior French and German diplomats met with Russian counterparts in Moscow on Thursday as part of efforts to revive peace talks over eastern Ukraine.
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