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France’s Macron calls for EU plan to ease Russia tensions

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the European Parliament Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022 in Strasbourg, eastern France.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the European Parliament Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022 in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias) Photo Gallery

STRASBOURG, France — French President Emmanuel Macron called Wednesday on the European Union to quickly draw up a new security plan containing proposals to help ease tensions with Russia, as concern mounts that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning an invasion of Ukraine.

The EU must in coming weeks “complete a European proposal building a new security and stability order,” Macron said. “We should build it among Europeans, then share it with our allies in the framework of NATO, and then propose it for negotiation to Russia.”

Macron’s remarks to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, came the day after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the military organization was in the process of finalizing its own security proposals. Stoltenberg hopes to set up a series of meetings with Russia in the near future.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Wednesday and plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

Macron told European Parliament members that France and Germany were working to revive the “Normandy format” for talks between Russia and Ukraine that have been aimed at respecting the 2015 peace agreement easing fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

France and Germany’s efforts in 2015 helped end large-scale hostilities in eastern Ukraine but the conflict, which has left around 14,000 dead, has simmered.

“We will ensure that Europe’s voice is heard, unified and strong, on the question of strategic weapons, the control of conventional weapons, the transparency of military activities, and the respect of the sovereignty of all European states, regardless of their history,” Macron said.

Top officials believe Putin has tried to divide the 27-nation bloc, the United States and NATO — which also has 21 EU members — with security demands that include halting NATO’s expansion and limiting the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe. The U.S. and NATO have rejected those demands.

“The United States didn’t play their game,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week. “Russia wanted to divide us. They failed.”

It was not immediately clear how, or even if, Macron’s proposals would dovetail with those of NATO.

Last June, he and former German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to press EU leaders to hold a summit with Putin. The plan was rejected, notably by the Baltic countries and Poland, amid concerns about meeting with the Russia leader at a time when Europe’s relations with Moscow were so poor.

But on Wednesday, Macron made a fresh push for such a high-level meeting.

“It’s very difficult to have a policy of sovereignty from Russia if we decide not to speak to Russia,” he said, and he urged EU countries to end their dependence on Russian gas and oil supplies.

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