EU will act strongly if Russia attacks Ukraine, says French Foreign Minister

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Russia needs to know that the European Union will act strongly if it attacks Ukraine, said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday at an online event organised by the Observer Research Organisation.

“The Ukrainian question will not penalise this political will, that I have just asserted. Although today this question is dominating the news. We are of course preoccupied by the tensions that exist at the frontier of Ukraine because of the significant deployment of Russian forces at Donbas as well as Belarus. Russians need to know — if there was any attack on the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we have to act strongly. But we also want that dialogue be pursued,” said Mr. Le Drian, emphasising the current presidency of his country in the European Union.

The Minister spoke in French and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. The French Foreign Minister’s comments echoed the statement of President Emmanuel Macron who on Tuesday promised that France and Germany were committed to dialogue but Russia would have to pay a “very high” price if it attacked Ukraine.

Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Paris on Wednesday under the “Normandy Format”. The dialogue created a window for further negotiation and all parties agreed to meet again in Berlin next month. Following the meeting in Paris, Ukraine urged “foreign partners” not to evacuate diplomatic missions in Kyiv and avoid steps that could “shatter society”.

“This meeting took place and all parties [agreed] that the ceasefire of July 2017 should be respected and took small steps for the political settlement of the crisis. This is a small bit of optimism that I want to evoke,” said Mr. Le Drian arguing that the situation in Ukraine would not affect the European Union’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region. He said France and India would have a “determining role” in the Indo-Pacific region.

France’s support

Speaking at the same event about the Indo-Pacific region, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said France had been a partner of India for decades and pointed out that France was a nation from the Indo-Pacific region because of its territorial possessions in the oceans that define this area. Mr. Jaishankar reminded that France had consistently supported India during critical moments like in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests when France was one of the first P-5 countries that extended support to India in the face of international criticism. “Though we are located in different parts of the world, on big issues [like Afghanistan], it is interesting how similar our thinking is. That to my view which impels closer partnership, France is there in the western Indian Ocean and in the south Pacific Ocean” said Mr. Jaishankar, who emphasised that France has a “resident” presence in the Indo-Pacific region. “Focusing this partnership on Indo-Pacific is very timely and appropriate,” said Mr. Jaishankar.

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