Macron plays down EU refusal on Putin talks

Analysts said Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel had been impressed by the results of a summit between US President Joseph Biden and Putin in Geneva on June 16, and did not want the EU to be sidelined on Russia policy.

A picture taken on 16 December 2020 shows French President Emmanuel Macron addressing the press upon the arrival of Portuguese Prime minister for a working lunch at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. Picture: AFP.

BRUSSELS - President Emmanuel Macron on Friday played down EU leaders' refusal of a French-German plan to resume summits with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying better conditions were now in place for Brussels-Moscow dialogue.

The proposal from Paris and Berlin was thwarted by opposition within the EU, from ex-Soviet bloc nations like Poland as well as the three Baltic states.

Analysts said Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel had been impressed by the results of a summit between US President Joseph Biden and Putin in Geneva on June 16, and did not want the EU to be sidelined on Russia policy.

"It's no drama at all" that the EU states refused to restart the summit meetings frozen since 2014, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, Macron said.

"I have no obsession about a summit of the 27" EU members with Moscow, he added.

Macron told reporters that rather than being a failure, the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday managed to confirm "progress in a good direction on the Russia question".

"I am happy that we moved away from a purely reactive logic with regards to Russia," he said, adding that a repeated pattern of Russian "provocations" followed by European sanctions had proven "ineffective."

"A sovereign Europe should be able to defend its interests" by speaking directly to Putin, he added.

Macron warned that by not matching the Biden-Putin summit, Europeans were "letting other people talk about arms control on our territory" while "not having a place at the table."

In Paris, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a press conference with his US counterpart Antony Blinken that the EU should engage in a "high level" dialogue with an increasingly aggressive Russia.

"We note the authoritarian drift of this country which takes different forms -- its drift of intimidation, its drift of interference," Le Drian said.

"But this does not mean it is not important to speak with Russia, without naivety.

"It should not be the Americans who are specialists in dialogue with Russia and the Europeans who are specialists in sanctions. Each must do both."

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