French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he would continue to dialogue with Russia to help prevent the Ukraine conflict escalating, but pledged France’s unwavering support for Kyiv in what he said would be a long war.
Macron has in the past been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Kyiv since Russia‘s invasion of its neighbour, and his repeated dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We must prepare for a long war,” Emmanuel Macron told his diplomatic corps setting out his foreign policy goals.
He said France would continue long-term backing for Kyiv economically, militarily and with humanitarian aid, but warned that one of the key challenges would be ensuring European unity in the face of Russia.
“European unity is key because division is one of Russia’s war objectives,” he said.
Macron argued that Western military assistance for Ukraine, including from France, had allowed the country to withstand the Russian invasion far more effectively than many experts and also Russia had predicted.
“We are not participating in the war, we do not want to,” he said, repeating an argument Macron has used since the first days of the war.
“But we cannot let Russia win this war militarily by gaining territory and, at the same time, showing the defeat of the international order and our values on the basis of an aggression,” he added.
Defending Russia dialogue
The French president insisted that talking to Moscow was imperative to avoid escalation in the conflict and ultimately to help set the terms for a negotiated peace, which only Ukraine could decide.
“France will continue to talk to Russia.” he said. “Who wants Turkey to be the only power in the world which continues to talk to Russia?”
Macron has repeatedly spoken to his Russian counterpart since Moscow launched its attack on Ukraine in February, with their latest conversation coming on August 19 following a lengthy pause.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom Macron has had a fractious relationship, has meanwhile actively sought to play the role of mediator, meeting in person with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The job of a diplomat is to talk to everyone, especially to people with whom we do not agree,” Macron added. “And so we will continue to do so, in coordination with our allies.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)