Kremlin ‘regrets’ EU rejection of proposed Putin summit
Moscow said on Friday it “regretted” an EU decision to reject meetings with President Vladimir Putin, a move it said showed a split within the bloc caused by anti-Russian members.
EU leaders said they had rebuffed a proposal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that came after US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Putin last week aimed at reducing tensions.
The 27-nation bloc’s decision earlier on Friday followed fierce resistance from member states — especially in Eastern Europe — worried about Moscow’s aggression.
Those countries “often speak groundlessly” about a threat from Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, singling out Poland and the Baltics.
“President Putin was and remains interested in establishing working relations between Moscow and Brussels,” Peskov said.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement in response that the bloc’s policies towards Moscow continue to be determined by what it described as “anti-Russian member states.”
“The European Union actually remains captive to their opportunistic interests, which run counter to the aspirations of ordinary European residents,” it added.
The last summit between EU chiefs and Putin took place in early 2014, just months before Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday in Brussels that he and other leaders, especially in the Baltic States, felt overtures to Putin were “premature” given the Russian leader’s “aggressive policy” and how Moscow has been “provoking neighbours”.
“Poland rejected this German proposal, because we believe that it would kind of show appreciation for President Putin, rather than punish aggressive policy,” Morawiecki told reporters.
Ukraine — not an EU member — also opposed the idea of resuming summits, with Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba saying on Friday that Ukraine wanted to hear an explanation from Paris and Berlin over their initiative.
Merkel insisted the EU should be able to talk to Putin after her push for a summit was thwarted.
“The president of the US met for a serious talk with Vladimir Putin, which I did not have the impression was a reward for the Russian president,” Merkel told a press conference in Brussels.
“A sovereign EU, in my opinion, should also be able to represent the interests of the EU in such a similar conversation.”
Echoing Merkel, France’s Macron warned that by not matching the Biden-Putin summit, Europeans were “letting other people talk about arms control on our territory” while “not having a place at the table”.
He said that rather than being a total failure, the EU talks had moved the needle on the bloc’s policy towards Moscow.
“I am happy that we moved away from a purely reactive logic with regards to Russia,” he said, adding that a repeated pattern of Russian provocations followed by European sanctions had proven ineffective.
Italy’s Mario Draghi, who backed a meeting between all EU leaders and Putin, said that the proposal had come “a bit as a surprise” and upset the countries most worried about Moscow.
He said that the bloc had “substantially shelved this idea, at least for the moment”.
Moscow has been at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a recent Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.
EU leaders said that they were “open to a selective engagement” with Moscow in areas aligned with the bloc’s interests, such as climate change, health, the Iran nuclear deal and conflicts in Syria and Libya.
Relations have also been strained between Moscow and Washington, reaching their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
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