Friday, December 2, 2022

Zelensky, Macron evoke unblocking Normandy Format amid security crisis

by Alexander QueryDecember 10, 2021 5:41 pm
French President Emmanuel Macron (C-R) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C-L) pose for joint photo before their meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on June 17, 2019. (Ukrainian president's press service)

French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Dec. 10 about unblocking the Normandy Format amid Russian troops’ movement surrounding Ukraine since November and fear of a large-scale invasion.

The leaders of the Normandy Format countries – Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia – have not met since 2019. Lately, Russia has been stalling the meetings. The Normandy Format and the so-called Trilateral Contact Group are the two formats set up to find a resolution to Russia's war in eastern Ukraine.

“Talked to Emmanuel Macron about unblocking the Normandy format and the TCG (Trilateral Contact Group) work. Agreed on joint next steps,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter. 

The two counterparts also talked about threats to Ukraine's energy security and diversification of energy sources, according to Zelensky.

In his tweet, Zelensky hinted at Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which could strip Ukraine of a significant source of leverage to deter further Russian military aggression.

According to Ukrainian authorities, the recently completed pipeline may spell the end of Ukraine’s status as a gas transit country between Russia and Europe, losing Ukraine around $2 billion a year.

Zelensky intends to meet with Macron in person on Dec. 15 in Brussels on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership summit, but the meeting has not been officially announced yet. 

"Our desire is to work in contact with Zelensky, whom I will see on Wednesday (Dec. 15), and in contact with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, with whom I will speak next week to revive this format," Macron said during a press conference on Dec. 9.

Macron’s declaration came as France prepares to take over the European Union’s presidency for six months, starting on Jan. 1, 2022. 

During an overview on Dec. 9 concerning France’s policy at the head of the bloc, Macron pledged for “a powerful Europe in the world, fully sovereign, free to make its own choices and master of its own destiny,” Macron said.

He also said he wanted to maintain the Normandy Format talks, regardless of the talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Putin, held on Dec. 7.

During a two-hour-long video conference, the two leaders discussed Ukraine, as satellite imagery has shown Moscow concentrating nearly 100,000 troops on the country’s border in what is feared by many to be the preparation for a full-scale invasion and occupation of much of the country.

The talks concluded without definitive resolutions or commitments from either side.

Following the conversation, the White House said it expects effective results regarding Moscow’s stance on Ukraine in the coming days.

In early December, Putin and the Kremlin mouthpieces repeatedly demanded that NATO assume formal obligations on non-extension in Eastern Europe, which would make Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance impossible.

In response, Biden said that he would not accept any Russian red lines regarding Ukraine. 

According to multiple reports in the U.S. media, Biden’s administration is considering heavy economic sanctions on the Kremlin’s inner circle, as well as disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT global banking system, in the event of a large escalation of the war with Ukraine.

Alexander Query
Alexander Query
Business reporter

Alexander Query is a business reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He is the former business editor at the Kyiv Post. He worked as a TV correspondent and an anchorman at UATV in Ukraine, and received a BA in modern literature from La Sorbonne, in Paris.

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