'I didn’t change my number': Macron still open to dialogue with Putin if it helps to bring peace

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BRUSSELS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he would still consider talking with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin if it helps creating a sustainable peace between Ukraine and Russia.

Macron and Putin enjoyed a good working relationship before Russia invaded its neighbor in February 2022. In weeks preceding the start of hostilities, Macron’s diplomatic efforts failed to stop the war but he then kept open a line of communication with the Russian president for months.

Their diplomatic and personal links deteriorated badly as the war dragged on. Earlier this year, Macron weighed the possibility of stripping Putin of France’s highest medal of honor.

Putin was asked Thursday during his year-end news conference by a journalist from the French channel TF1 about his views on France and Macron.

Putin said: “At some point the French president stopped the relationship with us. We didn’t do it, I didn’t. He did. If there’s interest, we’re ready. If not, we’ll cope.”

Speaking in Brussels at the end of a summit where EU leaders decided to open membership negotiations with war-torn Ukraine, Macron said he remained open to dialogue with Putin on finding a peaceful solution if the Russian leader reaches out to him.

“I didn’t start the war unilaterally, breaking the treaties I’d agreed to. And it wasn’t France that decided to commit war crimes in the north of Ukraine, making discussions virtually impossible,” Macron said. “Well, we have to be serious, so I have a very simple position. I haven’t changed my number.”

Macron added that if Putin shows a will to kick-start a dialogue that can build a lasting peace, France is ready to help.

“If President Putin has a willingness to engage in dialogue and serious proposals to move forward and emerge from the conflict and build a lasting peace, that is to say one that respects international law and therefore Ukrainian interests and sovereignty, I’ll take the call,” Macron said.

Putin said this week there would be no peace until Russia achieves its goals, which he says remain unchanged after nearly two years of fighting.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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