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No sense in talking to Russia, Europe must support Ukraine, French FM says

French FM Séjourné is skeptical about dialog with Russia, highlights Europe’s crucial role in providing long-term aid to ensure Ukraine’s victory against the Russian invasion, emphasizing the importance of European unity and commitment.
France’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné. Screenshot: Youtube/ France 24 English
No sense in talking to Russia, Europe must support Ukraine, French FM says

France’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné spoke to France24 and RFI in Côte d’Ivoire coclusing his first African tour. In the interview, published on 8 April on Youtube, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné addressed the diplomatic fallout from a recent call between French and Russian defense officials, as well as France’s steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

France is among Ukraine’s strong supporters in its war against Russia’s aggression. The total value of French military equipment delivered to Ukraine is €2.615 billion, with an additional contribution of €1.2 billion to the European Peace Facility (EPF). In total, this amounts to over €3.8 billion between 24 February 2022, and 31 December 2023.

Discussions with Russia’s leaders are not in French interests now

Earlier, on 3 April, a rare high-level call between France’s Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu led to conflicting readouts, with Paris emphasizing a focus on counterterrorism, while Moscow claimed discussions of possible talks on its war in Ukraine and issued veiled threats, causing a diplomatic headache for France.

Regarding the controversial call between Lecornu and his Russian counterpart Shoigu, Séjourné emphasized that the discussion was focused on counterterrorism efforts, not the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“The conversation wasn’t about the conflict in Ukraine,” he explained. “It was a conversation about the terror attacks in Moscow. We have a longstanding legacy when it comes to working with Russia. We cooperate with Russia when fighting against terrorism,” he said adding that “the Russian press release was one that didn’t speak of cooperation.”

Séjourné acknowledged the stark differences between the French and Russian readouts of the call, stating,

“The two press releases were very different. We actually spoke to our Ministers of the Armed Forces and Defense, and I think I know which press release I want to leave.”

Asked if one still can talk to Moscow even in the middle of this informational war, Séjourné expressed doubt about the value of continued engagement with Moscow, saying,

“I don’t think that it is currently in our interest to discuss anything with Russian leaders because the press releases and the reports that they provide are lies. So I think maybe we need to build back trust first.”

Ukraine can win the war

Turning to the situation in Ukraine, Séjourné struck a more optimistic tone, voicing confidence that Ukraine can ultimately prevail in the conflict with sustained European support.

“I think Ukraine can win the war, but all depends on our help,” he said. “Europe will provide aid in the long term, and everyone needs to believe in that. It’s a matter of European existence because obviously, it is a long-term security risk.”

The French minister underscored the importance of European unity in supporting Ukraine, amidst uncertainty regarding American aid, with a significant US assistance package stalled in Congress and concerns over the potential re-election of Donald Trump later this year.

“There is a lot of uncertainty as to support for Ukraine, but also there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether NATO should provide assistance or not,” he said. “Trump has made a number of rather concerning statements, which raises concerns about whether the United States will help Europe if Europe comes under attack.”

Séjourné argued that European nations must take a more proactive role in their own defense and security, stating,

“We need to organize ourselves politically. What that means is that we need to organize ourselves as Europeans with European Defense, not to replace NATO, not to replace cooperation that we have with allies, but as an addition.”

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