Macron calls on Ukraine to resume talks with Russia
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky will have to restart negotiations with Russia at some point, offering mediation in the process.
“We want peace, which means that once we reach a ceasefire, discussions must resume,” the French leader said during a visit to Romania.
“The Ukrainian president is going to have to negotiate with Russia, and we Europeans will be present at that table to offer security guarantees,” Macron added, speaking to the media alongside his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis
Macron's visit included meetings with political leaders and with French troops deployed to the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base as part of NATO’s build-up on the eastern European flank. He touted the 500-strong presence of French soldiers as a “clear message of commitment” to the bloc’s policy during a speech at the base.
NATO has ramped up troop presence across Eastern Europe, claiming it was necessary to deter Russia from attacking. Moscow perceives the buildup as confirmation of the bloc's hostility towards Russia and an encroachment on its borders.
During the press conference with Iohannis, Macron reiterated that prolonged hostility with Russia was not a viable long-term solution for European security.
“We Europeans share a continent with Russia, and geography is stubborn. Russia is here today, will be here tomorrow and was here yesterday,” he said.
Macron's visit to Romania may be followed up by a trip to Ukraine, during which he would be joined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The tour was not officially confirmed but was widely reported to be in the pipeline.
Ukraine has held several rounds of talks with Russia, during which some progress was made in formulating a possible peace agreement. Kiev pledged to maintain a neutral status and refrain from military cooperation with NATO in exchange for getting security guarantees from leading world powers, including Russia.
The talks were cut short after Ukraine accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in the town of Bucha near Kiev. President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that his people would not support any peace deal with Moscow due to the alleged atrocities, which Russia denies committing.
Zelensky stated that instead of seeking a compromise, Ukraine will win the fight against Russia on the battlefield with the help of foreign weapons, and aid poured into Ukraine by the US and its allies. Ukrainian officials blamed the slow pace of the arming of its military by the West for the continued loss of territory to Russian forces, as well as the high number of casualties that Ukraine has suffered in the fighting.
Moscow pointed out that flip-flopping on issues even as serious as war and peace has been a mark of Zelensky's tenure, as president and before he was elected. It also said Western nations were fueling the conflict instead of encouraging Kiev to seek a peaceful resolution to it.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.