January 27, 2023 10:03 pm

France’s Macron engineers new diplomatic push for Ukraine

Emmanuel Macron calls it “combat diplomacy.” The French president has vowed to make every effort to support Ukraine — including by hosting an international conference Tuesday meant to help the country make it through winter.

In the longer term, he believes talks with Russia will be needed to find a path to peace.

Tuesday’s international donors conference in Paris is intended to provide Kyiv with some immediate aid, both in financing and equipment. It comes in response to Russian war operations in recent weeks that have focused on civilian infrastructure and are aimed at “making the civilian population lose hope,” according to Macron.

The French president has been championing tougher sanctions against Moscow Since the war began and has stayed in regular touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

On Sunday, the pair spoke by phone to prepare the Paris conference that will gather the representatives of dozens of countries and focus on priority needs, including access to electricity, heating and water.

Yet Macron has also been criticized in recent months by Ukraine and some other European countries who feel he has not kept sufficient distance from the Kremlin.

Macron is one of the few Western leaders to have maintained contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of a long-term geopolitical strategy.

He has repeatedly said he would talk to Putin whenever it was required to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

Most recently, he said he would soon speak to him about the security of Ukrainian nuclear plants, especially the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which is Europe’s biggest.

Ultimately, there will be a need for negotiations with Russia, Macron says. He has also insisted that the terms of any talks must be decided by the Ukrainian themselves.

The French leader’s latest remarks on the issue earlier this month prompted criticism in Kyiv and the Baltic states.

Macron said on French television TF1 that the West should ready for possible talks to end the war and seek a deal that would include “how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.”

Critics say it is Ukraine that needs security guarantees, not Russia.

First elected in 2017, Macron has sought to play a key role in global diplomacy.

In April, he was reelected for a second term, bolstering his standing as an influential player in Europe.

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