France, Germany and Ukraine seek new peace talks with Russia

  • Macron, Scholz and Zelenskiy reunited in Brussels
  • Leaders aim to revive four-party talks with Russia
  • Leaders of five former Soviet Union states join EU for summit
  • Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova finally want to join the EU

BRUSSELS, Dec. 15 (Reuters) – Leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine on Wednesday sought to relaunch talks with Russia while maintaining pressure on Moscow to deter what the West says are preparations for a new attack on the territory Ukrainian.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met on the sidelines of a European summit in Brussels to find ways to relaunch negotiations in the “Norman format” which also includes Russia, a Macron’s office said.

“The three leaders reaffirmed their commitment to this format of negotiations in order to find a lasting solution to the conflict and to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” added his office.

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Ukraine is currently the main flashpoint between Russia and the West. The United States says Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, possibly in preparation for an invasion. Moscow says its actions are purely defensive.

“Any violation of territorial integrity will come at a high price and we will speak here with one voice with our European partners and our transatlantic allies,” Scholz said in Berlin before leaving for his first summit in Brussels as chancellor, adding that he was still seeking a “constructive dialogue” with Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Twitter urged the West and Ukraine to implement the 2014 and 2015 peace accords that include prisoner exchanges, aid and the withdrawal of arms.

Relations between Moscow and Berlin hit a new low on Wednesday when a German court found that Russia had ordered the assassination of a former Chechen activist in a Berlin park and convicted the officer who carried out the act of “State terrorism” from 2019 to life imprisonment. Read more

Germany summoned the Russian ambassador after the decision, telling him that two diplomatic staff from its embassy would be expelled, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

Zelenskiy said on Twitter that he hoped for France’s support to counter Russia’s “hybrid aggression” in Europe as Paris assumes the rotating EU presidency for six months in January.

He also invited Scholz to Ukraine and wished to deepen cooperation with Berlin in the fields of energy, security and defense.

FULL MEMBERSHIP GOAL

After the meeting, Ukraine joined Georgia and Moldova at the summit to pressure the EU to let them start negotiations to join the bloc. But for now, they will only get assurances of support against possible Russian aggression.

The one-day “Eastern Partnership” summit in Brussels highlights the limited success of the EU’s approach to the six former Soviet republics it embraces, all in what Russia sees as its rear. court where it has security interests.

Of the six, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine all grapple with territorial disputes with Moscow. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan attend the summit but do not seek EU membership. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, hit by Western sanctions for his human rights record, has remained on the sidelines.

“Our goal is full membership of the European Union,” Zelenskiy said after meeting EU summit president Charles Michel.

Excerpts from a draft summit final declaration, seen by Reuters and due for release later Wednesday, show that the EU “will recognize European aspirations and European choice” of the five countries concerned. Read more

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Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Johnny Cotton in Brussels and Michel Rose in Paris Editing by Gareth Jones and Giles Elgood

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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