EU leaders pledge unity in averting war, easing tensions with Russia over Ukraine

Diplomatic efforts to stop Russia from invading Ukraine may pay off: Chancellor Scholz

Feb 9, 2022: According to a report by the AFP, European leaders on Tuesday pledged unity in their goal of ending the war on the continent, as French President Emmanuel Macron said he would set a path forward to ease tensions with Russia over Ukraine after flurry of diplomatic forays.

Arriving in Berlin after two days of talks in Kyiv and Moscow, Macron called for “strong dialogue” with Russia, as the only way to allay fears that Russia would invade its former Soviet neighbor. The French leader, who met with Vladimir Putin for five hours on Monday, said the Russian president had told him that Russia would “not be a source of escalation” despite the accumulation of more than 100,000 troops and military equipment on the Ukrainian border.

As a means of lowering tensions between the West and Russia, Macron said he now saw the “possibility” for talks involving Moscow and Kyiv over the festering conflict in eastern Ukraine to move forward, and “concrete, practical solutions” .

After his talks with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and his visit to the Kremlin, Macron was set to debrief German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish leader Andrzej Duda “We must find ways and means together to engage in a firm dialogue with Russia,” he said in Berlin after his Kremlin meeting.

Standing alongside Macron and Duda, Scholz stressed the trio “are united by the goal of maintaining peace in Europe through diplomacy and clear messages and the shared will to act in unison”.

Andrzej Duda said he believed war could still be averted.

“We have to find a solution to avoid war,” said Duda. “I believe that we will achieve it. In my opinion what’s most important today is unity and solidarity.”

The EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell meanwhile was more cautiously optimistic, saying Macron’s visit to Moscow brought “an element of detente” but “has not produced a miracle”.

The diplomatic efforts will now focus on separate talks involving high-ranking officials in Berlin on Thursday that Zelensky said could pave the way for a summit with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany aimed at reviving the stalled peace plan for Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.

On the other hand, Putin, who has demanded security guarantees from NATO and the United States, said after his talks with Macron that Moscow would “do everything to find compromises that suit everyone”.

He said several proposals put forward by Macron could “form a basis for further steps” on easing the crisis over Ukraine, but did not give any details.

The French presidency said Macron’s response proposals included no new military action by both sides, the launch of a strategic dialogue and efforts to restore peace in the Ukraine conflict. It also said an agreement would ensure the withdrawal of about 30,000 Russian troops from Belarus by the end of joint military exercises later this month. The Kremlin insisted it never intended to leave the troops permanently on Belarusian territory.

Kyiv says there will be no compromise over Ukraine’s territorial integrity, no direct talks with the separatists and no interference in its foreign policy. Ukraine says the Kremlin wants to use the two breakaway eastern regions Russia supports as leverage to keep the country under Moscow’s sway.

Moscow continued to bolster its forces around Ukraine as it announced that six warships were moving from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea as part of pre-planned international naval exercises. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told local television that Kyiv was planning to hold exercises with Western-supplied anti-tank missiles and Turkish war drones in response to Russian-Belarusian exercises.

US President Joe Biden meanwhile on Monday made a blunt statement regarding the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which is to channel gas from Russia to Germany. In a bid to ramp up the pressure on Moscow, he warned that he would “end” the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Europe if there was military incursion into Ukraine.

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