Sarkozy: All sanctions should be lifted, but Moscow needs to reach out first

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has told RT that the West and Russia should lift sanctions to clear the way for a civilized diplomatic effort. He believes that as Russia is “the strongest side of the conflict,” it should act first.

“I think it’s time all the sanctions were lifted, so that diplomacy may regain its rightful position, and we can leave behind this Cold War climate that’s in no one’s interest,” Sarkozy told RT on the sidelines of the 20th International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

“Time will be working against us. I’m one of those who think sanctions should be abolished,” he said. “We have a lot of other problems and we cannot afford to suffer because of these artificially created problems. And the strongest should reach out a hand, because the strongest player is Russia, represented by President Putin.”

“I told Putin to make this offer – there’s no risk in being the first to make a gesture of goodwill,” Sarkozy said, adding that “we will follow the example.”

However, according to Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, Russia is not considering lifting its EU counter-sanctions. 

He noted on the sidelines of the forum that Moscow did not lead the initiative to impose sanctions.

Sarkozy urged Russia and Europe to cooperate in order to  avoid a new Cold War, stressing that the present state of relations leaves much to be desired.

“These relations have never been that cold,” the former French president acknowledged. “I believe that Europe needs to work hand in hand with Russia. I would not like a new Cold War. The Cold War is neither in our interests nor in the interests of the Europeans.”

The time of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is long gone and the “Cold War is over,” Sarkozy told reporters. “NATO has no goal of fighting Russia," he said, adding such beliefs are a “strategic mistake.”

The French politician proposed engaging Russia in the development of a joint European missile defense system.

“I want Europe to have a missile shield, it would be good if NATO had such a shield, but the Russians should be included in this,” Sarkozy said.

The EU followed in the footsteps of the US in 2014 and imposed energy and financial sanctions on Russia. The sanctions are due to be extended for another six months until the end of the year. In turn, Russia imposed counter-sanctions banning most EU food produce. These measures cost European exporters billions in lost revenues.

Sarkozy, who heads France’s center-right Republican opposition party, also spoke against the introduction of a visa-free regime between Russia and the EU. The current security situation in Europe has raised the issue of protection and control of European borders, he explained.

“I am in favor of maintaining the visa regime in countries that are in a state of emergency, and we are in a state of emergency,” Sputnik cited Sarkozy as saying. “This is not the time to promise everyone to end visa regimes,” he added.

On the issue of Syria, Sarkozy pointed out that Russian participation is of key importance in solving the crisis.

“We need Russia in order to solve the dramatic Syrian tragedy. Russia needs to do everything possible so that there are not two coalitions, but one,” Sarkozy said, adding that a day earlier he told the Russian president that his leadership “may help” to bring the conflict in Syria to an end.