Brussels reassures the United States following Macron’s surprising call for EU-Russia negotiations

EU officials sought to reassure the United States that Brussels remains committed to Washington-led negotiations with Russia to avert further conflict in Ukraine after French President Emmanuel Macron broke the hierarchy to call for a competitive EU dialogue with Moscow.

Macron on Wednesday used a speech to the European Parliament to urge EU states to “conduct their own dialogue” with Russia instead of engaging in diplomatic efforts involving the United States and NATO, in remarks that blinded outraged EU officials .

“We got no warning about this crazy idea,” one told FT. “I hope [the Americans] realize that it will not lead anywhere. “

EU diplomats said Macron’s call was “the first time” that negotiations on Europe only were mentioned by Paris, while another suggested that France’s push had not been coordinated with partners before the speech.

In a diplomatic effort that began last week aimed at avoiding a dreaded Russian attack on Ukraine and discussing broader issues of European security, Moscow officials held meetings with the United States and with NATO’s military alliance.

While Brussels has been grumbling about the lack of official representation of the EU in the negotiations, diplomatic outreach efforts by US officials have been welcomed to ensure that the bloc is heard. Twenty-one of the EU’s 27 members were also present in their capacity as members of NATO.

Following Macron’s statement, which was welcomed in the Strasbourg Assembly, EU top diplomat Josep Borrell held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in which they agreed on the need for “a strong, clear and united transatlantic front”, according to a reading from Borrell’s team.

The EU has agreed to “further strengthen coordination with the United States and with NATO”, Borrell noted in the call, in which he also invited Blinken to attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

Stoltenberg said in a separate statement that the call was a “strong signal of unity”, repeating a plea from Blinken earlier Wednesday to avoid “divisions between and within our countries”.

Macron, who has called on the EU to work towards “strategic autonomy” and rely less on the United States and NATO for defense and security, said on Wednesday that Europe had to offer Russia its own solution to reduce tensions with Moscow in the coming weeks ”.

“We should build as Europeans working with other Europeans and with NATO and then propose it for negotiation with Russia,” he said. “It is good that Europeans and the United States are coordinating, but it is necessary for Europeans to have their own dialogue.”

But that proposal “sends a signal of division, which is sad because there really is no one in reality. Europe and the United States are incredibly synchronized with this,” said another European official. “They will love it here in Moscow, and it that’s why it’s dangerous. “

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Wednesday opposed the idea of ​​broader negotiations, saying Moscow would prefer to trade primarily with Washington. “We would rather find an understanding and first enter into an agreement with the Americans. Bringing too wide a circle of countries into these processes seems counterproductive to us, ”Ryabkov said.

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