France plays down Macron Russia security comment

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Comments by France’s president about offering Russia security guarantees were taken “out of context”, an aide said Friday, after the remarks stoked new tensions with Kyiv before a reconstruction conference in Paris.

In an interview with France’s TF1 channel last Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron cast forward to a settlement with Russia after the end of fighting in Ukraine, saying that Moscow would need “guarantees for its own security”.

That provoked new concern in Kyiv that the French leader was again seeking to balance his support for Ukraine’s war effort with diplomatic outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Someone wants to provide security guarantees to a terrorist and murderous state?” the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on social media.

An aide to the French leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Macron was repeating his long-held view that a negotiated settlement would be needed to end the conflict.

“If you read everything the president said, you see there is nothing new,” the aide said.

“He is saying what the Ukrainians say themselves.”

There are fears that the remarks could overshadow a reconstruction conference in Paris next Tuesday that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is to attend and President Volodymyr Zelensky to address via video link.

“There’s a gap between what some people say by taking part of a sentence out of context and the reality of the work that we are doing, which is going smoothly,” the aide said.

“The dialogue between the president (Macron) and President Zelensky is excellent.”

Macron himself earlier in the week sought to draw a line under his statements, which have been criticized by other eastern European allies including Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

“I think we should not… try to create controversy where there is none,” the French leader said during a trip to Albania on Tuesday.

During the TF1 interview, Macron also stressed that France would not put pressure on Ukraine to stop it fighting to regain territory occupied by Russia.

– ‘One step ahead?’ –

But many in Kyiv and eastern Europe remain skeptical about the French leader’s intentions, after he said “we must not humiliate Russia” in June and kept up regular calls with Putin after the invasion.

Many French analysts have criticized Macron for the timing of his remarks.

“Of course, we need to be prepared for afterwards and keep up contacts,” Dominique Trinquand, a former French general, told the France 5 channel this week during a debate.

“But first you need to win, everyone says this.”

Macron “wants to be one step ahead,” he said.

The conference in Paris on Tuesday will see governments, business and aid agencies come together to look at what immediate assistance they can give Ukraine over the winter.

It will focus on the energy, health, food, transport and water sectors.

“Our starting point is that we’ve seen a change in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine since the month of October when Russia began to intensify its bombing of civilian — not military — infrastructure in Ukraine,” the aide to Macron said.

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