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Putin, Macron meeting can diffuse tensions in Donbass - expert

Answering a question on whether the talks between the Russian and French leaders can bring the Normandy Four summit closer

MOSCOW, August 17. /TASS/. The meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Emmanuel Macron scheduled for August 19 can lower tensions in southeastern Ukraine, Russia’s Valdai Discussion Club expert and Head of the Center for French Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for European Studies Yuri Rubinsky said in an interview with TASS on Saturday.

"The leadership [in Ukraine] has changed and it is now announcing its intention to restart the Normandy Format dialogue, which France initiated," he pointed out. "Both leaders understand the need to breathe new life into the Minsk Agreements, which today are undeniably stalled, even in practice, namely stop the shelling and swap prisoners. Such detente measures can launch the process of diffusing tensions in the Ukrainian crisis."

Answering a question on whether the talks between the Russian and French leaders can bring the Normandy Four summit closer, the expert said that such a meeting needs to have something to discuss. "For now, it is still in question. But since both Emmanuel Macron and [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel have already had rather substantial contacts with the new Ukrainian leadership, they are likely to wield some influence over [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky’s stance on the Minsk Agreements’ implementation," Rubinsky emphasized. "While Zelensky’s idea to invite the United Kingdom and the United States to the format is unlikely to have any prospects."

Iran and other issues

The Iranian tensions are another topic that will be discussed at the meeting between Putin and Macron, the expert is certain. "The continuous struggle between the US and Iran creates an explosive situation in the Persian Gulf, which both Russia and France are trying to resolve," he underlined. "Settling this problem is in the best interests of everyone, not just Russia and France."

The leaders can also discuss the latest events in Hong Kong, as well as the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following abolition of Kashmir’s statehood. "Moscow and Paris continue to have staunch differences regarding a number of issues, but the leaders are aware that it is necessary to hold dialogue," the political scientist said.

Moreover, the presidents will discuss new possible approaches to ensuring global security. "Following the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty - TASS), it is necessary to search for new positions," he stressed. "France and Russia are in the best position here to launch such a process."

On the eve of G7

Rubinsky highlighted the fact that Putin and Macron’s meeting will be held a few days before the regular G7 summit. "Russia has been absent in this club since the 2014 events in Ukraine," he recalled. "It is vital for Macron to find common ground with leaders of the largest powers."

Therefore, the expert suggested that the French leader acts as an intermediary for dialogue on the issues that the parties were not able to reach compromises on until recently. "There are issues that Macron feels very strongly about, namely the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change," the expert underlined. "Moscow and Paris are also looking to preserve the Iranian nuclear deal, which Washington exited."

According to Rubinsky, the dialogue with Paris is even more important now. "Who should Russia deal with in Western Europe? The UK and its new prime minister are fully embroiled in Brexit, Italy is going through a terrible political crisis, while German Chancellor Angela Markel is well on her way out, which she does not even hide," he explained. "Therefore, these conditions favor Macron’s bid to represent the EU’s interests in relations with the leading global powers, be it Russia or the US.".