France, Russia agree to work to halt Ukraine escalation

Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk: Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to work to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, according to a statement made by Macron’s office on Sunday.

In a phone conversation lasting 105 minutes, they also agreed on “the need to favor a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis and to do everything to achieve one,” the Elysee said, adding that both countries’ foreign ministers would meet “in the coming days.”

The two leaders discussed the need to step up the search for diplomatic solutions to the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine.

“In view of the urgency of the situation, the Presidents acknowledged the need to intensify the search for solutions through diplomatic means via the foreign ministries and political advisers to the leaders of the Normandy format,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

“These contacts should facilitate the restoration of the ceasefire regime and ensure progress in the settlement of the conflict in Donbass,” the Kremlin added.

In a separate call earlier on Sunday, Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed possible ways to secure immediate de-escalation.

Putin and Macron said they would work “intensely” to allow the Trilateral Contact Group, which includes Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, to meet “in the next few hours with the aim of getting all interested parties to commit to a ceasefire at the contact line” in eastern Ukraine where government troops and pro-Russian separatists are facing each other.

“Intense diplomatic work will take place in the coming days,” Macron’s office said, with several consultations to take place in the French capital.

Macron and Putin also agreed that talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany should resume implementing the so-called Minsk protocol, which in 2014 had already called for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

Both also agreed to work towards “a high-level meeting with the aim of defining a new peace and security order in Europe,” Macron’s office said.

Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden would now consult on the Ukraine crisis “within hours,” Macron’s office said.

The French president may also exchange with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and “other close partners,” it added.

In Sunday’s call, Putin told Macron that he intends to withdraw Russian troops from Belarus as soon as ongoing military exercises there are over, the Elysee also said.

The French presidency said that this claim “will have to be verified”, adding it appeared to contradict a statement by the Belarusian government that the Russian military would “continue inspections” beyond Sunday’s previously announced end of the exercises, leaving Moscow with a large force near the northern Ukraine border.

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