Q. – A very simple question: does the success in Normandy enable Europe to emerge from its new Cold War?
THE MINISTER – There were two aspects to the events in Normandy: the commemoration aspect and the diplomatic aspect. I think on both those levels France did a good job for peace.
On the Ukraine question, because that’s the one you’re asking, I think the meetings that took place in Normandy – in particular the meeting between the new president, Mr Poroshenko, Mr Putin, François Hollande, who was behind it, and Angela Merkel – make the beginnings of a de-escalation possible.
I was in Kiev yesterday and talked to President Poroshenko and other leaders. De-escalation is possible and desirable, that’s clear, but the task is very difficult. In the coming days – beginning today – we’ll be having discussions. Are we, yes or no, going to be able to have a ceasefire, which is absolutely essential? Are we going to be able to find a solution to the gas price issue? In this respect, things are going to move forward. With regard to the exterior – i.e. Russia – will relations with Ukraine be stabilized? And at domestic level, there are many things to do, because corruption must be fought and the economy put back on a sound footing.
To answer your question specifically, I think what happened in Normandy and what’s been prepared in Paris are a very positive factor.
Q. – Is Crimea no longer an issue?
THE MINISTER – The international community regards the annexation of Crimea as totally illegitimate, and that’s also France’s position. We can’t allow a country, in this case Russia, to annex part of another one, in this case Crimea. From the legal viewpoint, we don’t recognize this annexation, and in his speech yesterday President Poroshenko said there was no question of recognizing it. This is a very long-term issue; the Russians have now settled in Crimea.
Q. – How do you describe what’s happened in the past two days? Ultimately, is it a success for diplomacy? Is it a surprise that the heads of state decided all of a sudden?
THE MINISTER – It’s an undeniable success; I think the chances of peace have increased.
I want to come back to the way the meeting in Normandy, in particular, was prepared. It’s something that goes back quite a long way – to when François Hollande upheld the invitation to President Putin, against the views of a number of people who said “no”. (…)
Q. – What did you say to President Putin to get him to agree? What were the conditions?
THE MINISTER – It’s not a question of conditions. We talked, in depth, about the Ukraine issue, and we each set out our positions in a working atmosphere. At the end of the meal, François Hollande said, “right, President Poroshenko is here; I think it would be desirable for there to be dialogue.” And Vladimir Putin answered, “you’re the host, it’s up to you.” The Ukrainians were then informed. We got in touch with Poroshenko in the night and the operation was set up. We asked Mrs Merkel to take part in it, because she had played a useful role. So it went ahead the following day, and it was positive. (…)
Q. – On Wednesday evening, on Europe 1 and TF1, Vladimir Putin had said, firstly, that he recognized the legitimacy of the 25 May election, that he recognized Mr Poroshenko, that he was ready to meet him in Paris, and that he was ready to work with him.
THE MINISTER – (…) There was a whole debate: does Mr Putin recognize Mr Poroshenko, yes or no? I found this debate pointless once President Putin took note of the results and said he would send his ambassador to the investiture ceremony, where I was yesterday.
The de facto recognition was there, but it was a minor aspect.
What I think is important now is that the conditions are being created for a de-escalation to occur. That’s what France has wanted from the outset. You’ll remember the line we set: dialogue and firmness.
Firmness because, unless there’s firmness, there clearly can’t be any change on the Russian side; dialogue because there’s no question of moving forward unless people talk. (…)./.