The diplomatic push to prevent a wider conflict between Russia and Ukraine continued after French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in four days on Monday.
The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed Ukraine and Mr. Putin’s demands for “security guarantees” that would include a legally binding halt to NATO’s eastward expansion. They agreed to stay in touch by phone and “promptly explore the possibility of holding a face-to-face meeting,” the Kremlin said.
The French president said in a statement that the phone call was part of “the same de-escalation logic” as previous exchanges between the two presidents. The statement said that a face-to-face meeting is not ruled out, although nothing is planned yet.
With the retirement of German leader Angela Merkel, Mr Macron has sought to position himself as Europe’s main voice in international affairs, posing as a NATO ally who is independent of Washington and has open channels of communication with US adversaries.
In 2014, after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine, France and Germany agreed to Normandy Four talks with Russia and Ukraine, minus the US, to rule out superpower rivalries. . .
The Normandy Group helped bring about a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine in 2015 and has continued to meet ever since, including last week when diplomats from four countries gathered in Paris to discuss the latest crisis.
The French president said Mr Macron and Mr Putin welcomed the “positive progress” made in the Normandy format talks and that they would continue to “continue dialogue”.