With tensions running high on the European continent, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have held a high-stakes discussion by telephone, with the two world leaders going head-to-head over Moscow’s requests for security guarantees from the US and NATO
The Kremlin released its version of the talks on Friday, in which the two leaders touched upon numerous critical topics. As per the read-out, “Putin noted that the Russian side will carefully study the written answers to the draft security guarantee agreements from the US and NATO … and then decide on its further actions.”
According to the Russian president’s press service, Putin acknowledged Moscow’s dissatisfaction with the responses that it received earlier this week from the US side following weeks of negotiations.
“American and NATO replies did not take into consideration Russia’s fundamental concerns, such as the prevention of NATO enlargement, the refusal to deploy weapons systems near Russia’s borders and also to return the military potential and infrastructure of the block to the positions of 1997 in Europe when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed,” the statement read.
It was agreed that the two sides would continue dialogue on a range of security issues on the continent. “Macron informed Putin about Paris's approaches on the pan-European track,” the notice read, mentioning France’s position as president of the EU Council for the first half of 2022.
When discussing the situation in the war-torn eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated the importance of Kiev implementing provisions set out in the Minsk Agreements, which were designed to bring an end to the conflict in the region.
Moscow has previously said that it stands by the protocols, penned in 2014, and has accused Kiev of failing to live up to its side by refusing to negotiate with the leaders of the breakaway regions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that the territories are Russian proxies and insisted he would hold talks directly with Putin instead.
The call between the two heads of state came shortly after Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held a marathon meeting in Paris to discuss de-escalation in the war-torn Donbass region.
Following talks held as part of the Normandy Format, which also includes France and Germany, Moscow’s chief representative said that “despite all the differences in interpretations, we agreed that the cease-fire must be maintained by all the parties in line with the accords.”
Earlier in January, Macron marked the start of his country’s presidency of the EU by calling for a new “European order,” free of threats, coercion, and spheres of influence. This was widely interpreted as a move that France wants to play a more active role in the negotiations rather than delegating discussions on European security to Washington.
“Both for us and for Russia, for the sake of the security of our continent which is indivisible, we need this dialogue,” the French president said, adding that it should be “a frank and demanding dialogue in the face of destabilization, interference and manipulation.”
Dominique Moisi, a French political scientist and co-founder of the Paris-based Institut Francais des Relations Internationales, told the Associated Press that Macron has long attempted to “to reset the relation between France and Russia, and to do it based on a mix of being open and being firm.” However, he cast doubt on its past and future success, calling it a “challenge.”