UKRAINIAN President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) meets French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Kiev on Tuesday.—AFP
UKRAINIAN President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) meets French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Kiev on Tuesday.—AFP

BERLIN: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he saw a path forward on easing tensions with Russia over Ukraine, after conducting an urgent round of shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Kiev.

Macron held talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev a day after a five-hour meeting at the Kremlin with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as the West scrambles to defuse fears Moscow could invade its ex-Soviet neighbour.

The French leader said he now saw the “possibility” for talks involving Moscow and Kiev over the festering conflict in eastern Ukraine to move forward, and “concrete, practical solutions” to lower tensions between Russia and the West.

“We cannot underestimate the moment of tension that we are living through,” Macron said at a joint press conference after meeting Zelensky.

“We cannot resolve this crisis in a few hours of talks,” he said. “It will be the day and the weeks and the months to come that will allow us to progress.” Macron said Putin had told him that Russia “would not be the source of an escalation,” in the situation, despite amassing more than 100,000 troops and military hardware on Ukraine’s border.

With the assurances in hand, Macron landed later on Tuesday in Berlin where he is due to debrief Polish President Andrzej Duda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who himself has just returned from Washington. The European leaders, meeting in the so-called Weimar format, are expected to present a united front.

Zelensky said he hoped separate talks of high-ranking officials in Berlin on Thursday could pave the way for a summit with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany aimed at reviving the stalled peace plan for Kiev’s conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.

Putin — who has demanded sweeping 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”.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2022

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