Macron and Scholz urge de-escalation of tensions on Russia-Ukraine border

New German chancellor makes first foreign trip to meet French president in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and new Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz called for dialogue amid Russia-Ukraine tensions. EPA
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France and Germany called for dialogue and the avoidance of unnecessary tensions amid a build-up of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine.

In Paris alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the situation was concerning.

He showed support for the Normandy format, the discussions between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, meant to help solve the crisis.

“We’re all observing the situation at the Ukraine border with concern. It’s obvious that you can see many soldiers there,” Mr Scholz said on his first foreign trip since taking over from Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Russia has amassed about 90,000 troops on its frontier with Ukraine. A US intelligence assessment suggested that Moscow could be planning a multi-front offensive on Ukraine as early as next year.

“I think that our primary objective is to avoid any unnecessary tension, what I will call self-fulfilling news,” Mr Macron said, when asked about that assessment.

“What we all want, Europeans and Americans, is to show that we are paying close attention to the situation,” Mr Scholz said.

Mr Macron said he had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier on Friday and that they would discuss new initiatives to unlock peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine when they meet next week.

A call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden was seen as an effort to defuse tensions, with Russia warned that it would face heavy sanctions if it took military action against Ukraine.

“It is good that the American president has sought talks with the Russian president on this question, and we also will continue to develop our activities to ensure that Ukraine has good prospects,” Mr Scholz said.

“There are already good foundations for this that must be reactivated and should play a role for the future.

“And of course we're clear that the inviolability of borders in Europe is one of the principles that all in Europe must accept for our common security. To be clear about it has helped before, and it must be clear again, so that everyone knows: this rule goes for everyone. This is not just about power, it's about principles that are binding for everyone,” he said.

More broadly, Mr Macron said the visit to Paris by Mr Scholz “was an important moment to establish a solid basis of co-operation” between France and Germany. He said there was “a solid convergence of views”.

Updated: December 10, 2021, 3:20 PM