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2 Feb, 2023 11:39

Top EU diplomat speaks out on fighter jets for Ukraine – media

The delivery of warplanes to Kiev is a “highly controversial” issue for the bloc, Josep Borrell has explained
Top EU diplomat speaks out on fighter jets for Ukraine – media

The idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia is causing divisions among EU states and isn’t on the agenda at the moment, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has announced, according to media reports.

The delivery of warplanes to Kiev is a “highly controversial” issue for the 27-member union, Borrell said during his conversation with the media in Brussels on Wednesday, as cited by El Pais Spanish daily.

According to the diplomat, combat aircraft are “a different matter” compared to the main battle tanks that Germany, Poland and some other EU nations agreed to provide to Ukraine in late January, despite ruling out such possibility for months.

Borrell advised the bloc’s members to focus on fulfilling their promise of delivering these tanks to Kiev instead. He also regretted that countries had agreed to supply armor “one by one,” saying “it would’ve been better to make a European decision,” EFE news agency cited.

The diplomat also declined to reveal his own stance on the issue of fighter jets. “My job is to try to maintain consensus and one of the best ways is not to take positions that could put it at risk,” he explained.

After securing pledges from EU countries, the US and UK to provide dozens of Leopard 2, M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 tanks, respectively, Kiev has intensified calls for NATO to also supply it with fighter jets, in particular, US-made F-16 aircraft.

While France and the Netherlands said they were open to sending warplanes to Ukraine, some other countries, including Germany, have ruled out such a possibility.

Much like Borrell, German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck pointed out earlier this week that “there is a difference between battle tanks and fighter jets.” Giving Kiev planes would “probably” mean crossing a line and risking Berlin being drawn into direct conflict with Moscow, he said.

Outside of the EU, the US and UK have also said the supply of tanks to Vladimir Zelensky’s government won’t be followed by warplanes. US President Joe Biden said “No” when asked if Kiev would be getting F-16s, while the British government pointed out that the planes were “not practical” for Kiev.

Moscow has long decried deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine, arguing that they won’t change the course of the conflict, but only prolong it and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

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