Paris seeks to clarify Ukraine stance

Paris seeks to clarify Ukraine stance

France is unwilling to make concessions to Russia and wants Ukraine to win the war against Moscow’s invading forces with its territorial integrity restored, a French presidential official says.

The comments come as Paris seeks to assuage concerns over its stance in the conflict.

President Emmanuel Macron has been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies after published interviews on Saturday quoting him as saying it was vital not to “humiliate” Russia so that when the fighting ends there could be a diplomatic solution.

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“As the president has said, we want a Ukrainian victory. We want Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be restored,” the official told reporters when asked about Macron’s humiliation comments on Saturday.

Macron has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin regularly since the February 24 invasion as part of efforts to achieve a ceasefire and begin a credible negotiation between Kyiv and Moscow, although he has had no tangible success to show for it.

“There is no spirit of concession towards Putin or Russia in what the president says. When he speaks to him directly, it is not compromise, but to say how we see things,” the official said.

France is also ready to help on allowing access to the port of Odesa, where some of Ukraine’s grain stocks are ready to be exported, the official said.

“We’re at the disposal of the parties so that an operation can be set up which would allow access to the port of Odesa in complete safety,” the official said.

The official didn’t elaborate on what that help would be.

The Black Sea, where Odesa is located, is crucial for shipment of grain, oil and oil products. Its waters are shared by Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia and Turkey, as well as Ukraine and Russia.

Ukrainian government officials estimate 20 million tonnes of grain are unable to travel from what was the world’s fourth largest exporter before Russia’s invasion.

Defending Macron’s position, the official said there would have to be a negotiated solution to the war. He added that Paris was a key backer of sanctions and provided strong military support to Ukraine.

Some eastern and Baltic partners in Europe see Macron keeping a dialogue open with Putin as undermining efforts to push Putin to the negotiating table.

Macron will travel to Romania and Moldova on June 14-15 to show France’s support for two of the countries most exposed to events in Ukraine.

France has about 500 soldiers on the ground in Romania and deployed a surface-to air- missile system as part of a NATO battle group it heads up there. The official said Macron would visit French troops to underscore Paris’ commitment to the alliance.

Macron has not been to Kyiv to offer symbolic political support as other EU leaders have and Ukraine has wanted him to. The presidential official did not rule out a Macron visit.

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