France and Germany’s approach to negotiations with Russia are at the core of the exacerbating relationship between the EU and Moscow, according to former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
The now-MEP wrote in German daily Spiegel that said Berlin and Paris are partly to blame for the Ukraine crisis as they undermined the EU by pushing for negotiations with Russia via the Normandy format.
He wrote: “The crisis over Ukraine also has its origins in part in the foreign policy of Germany and France, which violates the rules of the Lisbon Treaty.”
He continued: “France and Germany, the largest member states, have taken it upon themselves … to resolve the conflict, without EU institutions, and without countries like Poland, which directly border the crisis region, participating.
“Berlin and Paris have achieved little — except that Russia now only wants to talk to the United States about the conflict on the European Union’s borders.”
The criticism comes as French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement he had spoken on the phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin again on Monday, following a call between the two leaders on Friday.
Mr Macron said both leaders welcomed progress made in talks about the Ukraine situation within the Normandy format.
He added that both presidents want to continue the dialogue with a view towards implementing the Minsk agreements relating to the situation in Donbass.
The Normandy format brought together the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russian separatists.
Asked about a possible physical meeting between Macron and Putin, a French official said this had not been ruled out, but no date had been set.
“There is a long-standing invitation, the dialogue is constant,” the official said.
Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in the east of the country, is demanding security guarantees including a promise NATO will never admit Kyiv.
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The United States has said there is little chance of Ukraine joining soon but that the country should decide its own future, as Washington and Moscow clash over post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe and concerns over energy supplies.
Tensions were on display at the United Nations Security Council on Monday over the troop build-up near Ukraine as both Russia and the United States used the international forum to label each other as “provocative”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he focuses on Britain’s global role in the world, which he has much touted since Brexit.
He said: “We urge Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic resolution and avoid further bloodshed.
“As a friend and a democratic partner, the UK will continue to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of those who seek to destroy it.”
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Mr Johnson is due to discuss with Zelenskiy what strategic support Britain can offer to Ukraine.
London has supplied defensive weapons and training personnel to Ukraine, though ministers have said that the deployment of combat troops is unlikely.
On Monday, the United States and Britain said they were prepared to punish Russian elites close to Russian President Vladimir Putin with asset freezes and travel bans if Russia enters Ukraine.
Poland has said it had offered neighbouring Ukraine tens of thousands of munitions, and was awaiting a reply.
The United States ordered the family members of its government employees in Belarus to leave as it warned against travel there amid tensions over Ukraine.
Further diplomatic efforts are expected on Tuesday.
A call between Mr Johnson and President Putin, which had been planned for Monday, could take place on Tuesday, according to Downing Street.