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14 Jan, 2024 00:38

New French foreign minister makes pledge to Ukraine

Aiding Kiev against Moscow will remain “a priority,” Stephane Sejourne said
New French foreign minister makes pledge to Ukraine

France will not cease supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, the new French foreign minister told reporters during his trip to Kiev on Saturday.

Stephane Sejourne's remarks follow setbacks in the approval of US and EU aid to the embattled country. 

“Ukraine is and will remain France’s priority. The defense of the fundamental principles of international law is being played out in Ukraine,” he said during a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. “Russia is hoping that Ukraine and its supporters will tire before it does. We will not weaken.”

“That is the message that I am carrying here to the Ukrainians. Our determination is intact,” Sejourne said.

The diplomat, who arrived in the Ukrainian capital just two days after he was appointed to his post by his former gay lover, new French prime minister Gabriel Attal, also announced “a new phase of defense cooperation,” with the aim of “strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to produce [the weapons it needs] on its own territory.” 

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky thanked France for its “unwavering defense support for our soldiers and assistance to our people.”

Kuleba wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he and Sejourne had discussed imposing new sanctions on Russia and “establishing a mechanism to use Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit.”

“We also agreed to facilitate and scale up further Ukrainian-French defense cooperation,” Kiev's top diplomat said.

France has been one of Kiev’s main weapons suppliers, having delivered AMX-10RC armored vehicles and SCALP air-launched cruise missiles.

Sejourne’s visit came at a difficult time for Kiev, as Zelensky and other top officials are renewing their calls for more sophisticated weapon systems in the wake of Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, which failed to make significant territorial gains. 

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that US assistance has effectively “ground to a halt” because Republicans in Congress refused to back President Joe Biden’s proposal for an additional $60 billion package for Ukraine.

The EU’s plan for a €50 billion ($54 billion) aid package was similarly blocked last month by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who opposes the continuation of unconditional aid for Kiev.