France working to de-escalate Ukraine crisis, Le Drian says
PARIS (Reuters) – France is working flat out with its European partners and the United States to find ways to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.
Le Drian was addressing the Senate, the upper chamber of France’s parliament, as senior advisers from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia met in Paris under the so-called ‘Normandy format’ to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The Ukraine situation is very tense but we are taking all the necessary initiatives to trigger a de-escalation process,” Le Drian told the French Senate.
Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and is demanding sweeping security guarantees from the West including a pledge that Ukraine never be allowed to join the alliance. Western countries have threatened crippling economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Le Drian also said France stood in solidarity with eastern European countries which could be more directly affected by the current situation in eastern Europe.
“I will travel with my German counterpart (Annalena Baerbock) to Kyiv in a few days and again to Romania to assure our Romanian colleagues of our solidarity,” he added.
Romania, a member of NATO and the European Union, shares a 600 km (370 mile) border with Ukraine and is preparing for a possible inflow of Ukrainian refugees in the event of a Russian invasion.
NATO has a multinational force of up to 4,000 troops in Romania. France has also offered to send more troops there if needed.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Gareth Jones)