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Ukraine crisis: Ukraine and France play down prospect of full-blown conflict with Russia

Published on Mar 5, 2014 6:09 PM
 
Armed men believed to be Russian servicemen march outside a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on March 5, 2014. Ukraine's interim government and France on Wednesday played down the prospect of a full-blown conflict with Russia ahead of potentially crucial talks on the Crimea crisis in Paris. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Ukraine's interim government and France on Wednesday played down the prospect of a full-blown conflict with Russia ahead of potentially crucial talks on the Crimea crisis in Paris.

"We want to keep good dialogue, good relations with the Russian people," Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said after meeting his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

"We want to settle this conflict peacefully. We don't want to fight with Russia."

Mr Fabius added: "The position of France, which is shared by Germany and others, is to be very firm with Mr Putin, on the one hand, and, on the other, to move towards dialogue.

"We are not going to declare war on the Russians but what they are doing is unacceptable. It is the invasion of one country by another," the French minister said.

Mr Deshchytsya is hoping to have a face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due here later in the day, but that has not been confirmed.

Mr Deshchytsya and Mr Fabius met ahead of a pre-arranged international meeting on Lebanon which Mr Lavrov was due to attend along with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, amongst others.

Mr Lavrov is due to have a bilateral meeting with Mr Kerry.

Mr Fabius said France and Germany had drawn up a plan mapping a way out of the current crisis, based on the creation of an international Contact Group involving Russia, Ukraine and the major western powers.

"We will see if they (the Russians) accept to discuss it," he said.

The Franco-German plan is a tweaked version of the one which was discussed last month after violent clashes in Kiev between the authorities and pro-European demonstrators, Mr Fabius said.

It envisages a national unity government, a pull-back of Russian forces, the dissolution of extremist militias and moves to organise a presidential election as quickly as possible, he added.

Mr Fabius said France would consider Russian agreement to join a Contact Group as a positive sign of a desire to reduce tensions, possibly allowing the European Union to hold off on threatened sanctions against Moscow.