Macron calls for EU plan to ease tensions with Russia

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the European Union to quickly draw up a new security plan containing proposals to help ease tensions with Russia, amid growing concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering an invasion of Ukraine.

The EU must in the coming weeks “complete a European proposal building a new order of security and stability”, Macron said. “We must build it between Europeans, then share it with our allies within the framework of NATO, then propose it for negotiation for Russia.”

Macron’s remarks to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, came the day after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the military organization was finalizing its own security proposals. Stoltenberg hopes to set up a series of meetings with Russia in the near future.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday and plans to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

Macron told members of the European Parliament that France and Germany were working to revive the “Normandy format” for talks between Russia and Ukraine aimed at respecting the 2015 peace agreement facilitating fighting in the eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Efforts by France and Germany in 2015 brought an end to large-scale hostilities in eastern Ukraine, but the conflict, which claimed an estimated 14,000 lives, simmered.

“We will ensure that Europe’s voice is heard, united and strong, on the issue of strategic arms, control of conventional arms, transparency of military activities and respect for the sovereignty of all European states, whatever their story,” Macron said.

Senior officials believe Putin tried to split the 27-nation bloc, the US and NATO – which also has 21 EU members – with security demands that include halting the expansion of NATO and the limitation of the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe. The United States and NATO have rejected these requests.

“The United States has not played its game,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week. “Russia wanted to divide us. They missed.”

It was not immediately clear how, or even if, Macron’s proposals would mesh with those of NATO.

Last June, he and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to pressure European leaders to hold a summit with Putin. The plan was rejected, notably by the Baltic countries and Poland, fearing to meet the Russian leader at a time when Europe’s relations with Moscow were so bad.

But on Wednesday, Macron gave new impetus to such a high-level meeting.

“It is very difficult to have a sovereignty policy of Russia if we decide not to talk to Russia,” he said, and he urged EU countries to end their dependence vis-à-vis Russian gas and oil supplies.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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