Macron, Blinken discuss aid to Ukraine, sanctions on Russia

Paris, Mar 8 (EFE).- French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding how to continue providing material and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and maintain pressure with sanctions on President Vladimir Putin to punish Russia for invading the neighboring country.

Blinken was in Paris at the end of a series of meeting with European allies that began last Thursday and which has taken him mainly to NATO member countries located in Eastern Europe, specifically Poland and the Baltic republics, as well as to Moldova, which is not a NATO member and reportedly does not have any active plans to join the Atlantic Alliance.

Macron and Blinken spoke about the “ongoing efforts to provide assistance for the government and people of Ukraine and reaffirmed their commitment to impose significant costs on President Putin and his associates for as long as they continue their war of choice in Ukraine,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.

The pair reviewed the diplomatic efforts under way to “diminish the violence and bring the Kremlin’s war to a halt,” Price added.

The French government, meanwhile, has kept completely silent about the meeting after another intense day of diplomacy by the French president.

Macron on Tuesday held an unprecedented three-way videoconference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping in an apparent new attempt to delink Beijing little by little from Moscow, to which it has moved closer diplomatically in recent months.

In that meeting, Xi expressed his support for the attempts by France and Germany to achieve a cease-fire in Ukraine and to guarantee that the civilian population there has access to humanitarian aid coordinated by the United Nations.

“Xi supported our action in favor of reaching a cease-fire and ensuring that the population has access to humanitarian aid,” said Macron on the social networks.

The French government added that the three leaders spoke about the joint international actions related to the conflict “including the role of the sanctions, with an eye toward reaching a diplomatic solution.”

The end of Blinken’s European tour coincided on Tuesday with two significant announcements: US President Joe Biden’s banning of Russian energy products and the British government’s statement that it will phase out buying Russian crude by the end of this year.

A source within the French government noted Tuesday that the US “does not depend on Russian (natural) gas and petroleum, but (its) European partners do.”

“We have a long-term policy of overcoming dependence on Russian petroleum and gas, but right now we have to study it with our European partners,” the Elysee Palace said.

The European Union is studying how to stop buying Russian hydrocarbons but this would be complicated given that Russian gas amounts to 40 percent of the European bloc’s energy imports and 19 percent of its consumption.

Dependence on Russian gas is almost total for some countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

For crude oil, Russia provides 20 percent of the European Union’s foreign petroleum purchases and accounts for 16 percent of its consumption, making Moscow the main energy supplier to the EU.

Before meeting with Blinken, Macron spoke by telephone again with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a conversation lasting about 90 minutes.

The two leaders discussed humanitarian questions, the security of Ukrainian nuclear installations and the progress of talks between Moscow and Kyiv taking place in Gomel, Belarus, sources with the French president’s office said.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, Macron has spoken 12 times with the Ukrainian leader.

EFE rcf/psh/bp

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