French President Emmanuel Macron called on European countries to maintain dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid risking “a new world war.”
Speaking to radio station France Inter on Friday, in his final live media interview before Sunday’s election runoff against Marine Le Pen, Macron warned against choosing a military path against Russia to end the crisis in Ukraine. He said a military solution “means that we decide to escalate the conflict,” which would therefore start “a new world war.”
Macron said that France had sent a lot of military equipment to Ukraine, adding: “If we had not done so, Kyiv would probably have already fallen.” He said Paris and Berlin had decided not to interfere directly in the war and instead send military equipment to Kyiv.
The remarks came as pressure is mounting on France and Germany to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine. European countries on the front lines such as Poland and Estonia have been calling on Berlin especially to send tanks to Kyiv.
Macron said that if he wins on Sunday, he would “not rule out at all” talking again with the Russian president, though he would first speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Stopping dialogue with Putin, Macron explained, would mean leaving the negotiations to other powers, such as “the Turkish president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan], the Chinese president [Xi Jinping] or others.”
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If that happens, “it will be the non-Europeans who will build peace in Europe … So, even if it is very hard, even if it is sometimes ineffective, you have to insist,” he said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
On Sunday, voters in France will decide who will be their president for the next five years, with Macron ahead in the polls. Both candidates will hold their final election rallies on Friday before campaigning stops at midnight.
Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.