French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Europe to improve relations with Russia to avoid a new Cold War, during an annual address to France's ambassadors on Tuesday.
A day after hosting the G7 summit in the French city of Biarritz, Macron sketched out a role for France as a balancing power between Russia and its rivals, the United States and Iran, and rich and poor countries.
“Pushing Russia from Europe is a profound strategic error,” Macron told the gathering of French diplomats, warning that doing so has allowed Russia to boost its alliance with China and gain influence in Syria, Libya and around Africa.
“It's not in our interest to be weak and guilty, to forget all our disagreements,” Macron said, while also warning of consequences for Europe if communication with Russia breaks down.
“The European continent will never be stable, will never be secure if we don't pacify and clarify our relations with Russia,” Macron said.
The president did not say whether he wanted to lift EU sanctions imposed over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, but he did say new sanctions “are not in our interest”.
The French president met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week. The two leaders and vowed to give a boost to peace efforts to resolve the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region.
Macron seeks to revive France's role
In addition to Russia, Macron has been seeking to play a role on a number of diplomatic fronts in recent weeks.
His surprise invitation for Iran's foreign minister to attend the G7 helped create the “possible conditions of a useful meeting”, while acknowledging his efforts to bring Iran and the US together were “fragile”.
Macron expressed hope at the G7 that US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could meet in the coming weeks.
Trump said there was a “really good chance” that could happen, but Rouhani warned Tuesday that the US must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran.
Amazon forest fires meanwhile continued fuelling tensions between Macron and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who accused France of a “colonial mentality” for making the fires an international issue at the G7 meeting.
Macron called that interpretation a “mistake” and said a pledge of financial aid to help fight the fires, which Bolsonaro rejected, was a sign of friendship and not aggression.