"What France, the president, the council of ministers, are part of is the desire not to lift sanctions at all or normalise anything but to avoid Russia's withdrawal from the Council of Europe, which I think would be bad for our goals as well as for the Russian citizens," Macron told a press conference after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia was stripped of its voting rights in the Council of Europe in 2014 following the country's reunification with Crimea. In 2017, Moscow suspended its annual 33-million-euro contribution to the council. In recent months, France and Germany have intensified efforts to restore Russia's status in the Council. Russia joined the organisation in 1996. If it loses its membership, Russians will no longer have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Macron on the Normandy Four Format
The coming weeks will show how a meeting in Normandy Four format — including France, Russia, Ukraine and Germany — can be made possible, but a meeting of the four leaders would have to be well-prepared to be useful, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
"It is clear that after the dialogue we had today we do not have all the answers. But we can see preliminary conditions emerging that can help energize [Minsk process]. There is the issue of prisoners, the issue of a ceasefire ... The thing to do is to see how the dynamic in the coming weeks can change to allow on one side and on another one to have a useful meeting, which would let one envisage advances," Macron told a press conference after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Normandy contact group, also known as the Normandy Four, is a diplomatic group of senior representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, which was established to resolve the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.