‘Awkward family dinner’ Franco-German talks with Putin savaged by Baltic leaders

France: Expert discusses ‘peace talks’ with Putin

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Those nations closest to Russia are said to be uneasy about the willingness of Emmanuel Macron, the French President, and Olaf Scholz, to speak with the Russian President while he continues to attack an ally. The latest phone call has reportedly reignited suspicions European leaders may push for Ukraine to cede territory to Russia in order to bring a swift end to the conflict.

On Saturday, the French and German leaders urged Putin to hold “direct serious negotiations” with Volodymyr Zelensky and unblock grain exports in an 80-minute call, Mr Scholz’s office said.

The Kremlin said the Russian dictator had warned the Western European leaders deliveries of weapons to Ukraine were “dangerous” and could bring “further destabilisation”.

The Ukrainian President has previously said he is open to peace negotiations, but was not willing to cede any Ukrainian territory to Russia.

Whereas Russia’s military goals appear to have changed from one of complete occupation of the country to one of control of the eastern Donbas region, it has been making significant gains in the region in recent days.

Mr Macron has lobbied the Russian leader since the invasion began over three months ago to agree a peaceful settlement, but so far talks have failed.

Baltic nations such as Estonia and Lithuania have sent vast swathes of military aid to Ukraine’s defensive forces, alongside the UK and other NATO allies.

However, Mr Scholz has been criticised for his Government’s response to the crisis, being accused of prioritising the German economy over Ukraine.

There are concerns the diverging concerns in Europe are having a damaging effect on the progression of further sanctions against Russia.

Earlier today (Sunday), Robert Habeck, Germany’s economic minister, told a press conference European unity on oil and energy boycotts were “already starting to crumble”.

Valentina Pop, Brussels-based Europe Express editor for the Financial Times, commented that the EU summit scheduled tomorrow (Monday) to discuss such issues “is shaping up as one of those awkward family dinners”.

That disunity between European leaders has been laid bare by Baltic politicians, who savaged the leaders for having an “explicit need for self-humiliation”.

Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Estonian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told the FT: “It is incredible how the leaders of France and Germany are inadvertently paving the way for new acts of violence by Russia.

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“How is it possible neither Paris nor Berlin have learned from history? Why is it presumed that Putin, currently waging a war on a major European people, intends to keep any promise?”

He added: “Macron and Scholz should hang up the phone and book a trip to Ukraine post haste.

“I hope their peculiar actions are not motivated by fear of losing influence in democratic Europe which Ukraine would surely enter after winning the war.”

Meanwhile Artis Pabriks, the deputy Prime Minister of Latvia, tweeted: “It seems that there are a number of so-called Western leaders who possess explicit need for self-humiliation in combination with total detachment from political reality.”

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said on Sunday Russia “must be isolated” as countries around the world under similar threats were watching on in angst.

He noted: “Giving the occupier a chance to occupy territory means that it can be repeated elsewhere.”

Kristi Raik, head of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, said the discussions that had taken place risked giving currency to the Russian leader’s “lies and unacceptable demands”.

She added: “I don’t share the view that no Western leader should ever talk to Putin.

“But the way Macron and Scholz are doing it is not just unhelpful, it is deeply counterproductive.”

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