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Twenty-second Ambassadors’ Conference/Ukraine/Russia

Published on August 29, 2014
Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, August 28, 2014


But peace and security are also threatened in Eastern Europe. Just a few hours from here by plane.

In Ukraine, our continent is experiencing one of the most serious crises since the end of the Cold War. I want to articulate France’s position on this serious issue.

On one hand, Russia must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, halt its support for the separatists and get them to accept a bilateral ceasefire. Russia must effectively monitor its border and end the transfer of arms and materiel. If it turns out that Russian soldiers are present on Ukrainian soil, that would of course be intolerable and unacceptable.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian authorities must show restraint in their military operations, implement a programme of broad decentralization in the Russian-speaking regions, and avoid any provocations.

The solution to the crisis in Ukraine is political, not military. That is why on 6 June, during the D-Day Landing ceremonies, I took advantage of Presidents Putin and Poroshenko’s presence to arrange a first meeting. Angela Merkel’s presence was helpful at that moment. Since then, the Chancellor and I have continued our efforts to forge ties and renew contacts. Sometimes we’ve succeeded, but as yet we still haven’t managed to resolve the situation.

The Europeans had to strengthen sanctions. They will necessarily be maintained if not increased if the escalation continues. Let me clearly say that I hope we don’t get to that point. It is not in Russia’s interest, it is not in Europe’s interest, it is not in France’s interest. Russia cannot aspire to be a recognized 21st-century power and not respect the rules. Even as we speak, it is experiencing growing isolation, and the consequences of slower growth are being seen as a result of the sanctions.

Obviously, it’s up to the Russian President to resolve this contradiction. I’ve told Vladimir Putin several times that France and the European Union would like to continue deepening our relationship with Russia, because Russia is a great country, because Russia’s destiny too lies within the European continent, and there are historical, cultural and economic ties between Russia and France.

But the Ukrainian crisis is an obstacle to that today. One more reason to resolve it quickly! France, along with Germany, stands ready to do so. I am once again proposing to meet in the format that’s now called “Normandy” – we’ve trademarked it! – to achieve a comprehensive agreement. But the four of us will meet only if the conditions of an agreement have been put forward.

So the willingness is there, on our side, and we are working with the Chancellor. The response must come notably from the Russian side. (…)./.

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