French President Emmanuel Macron said he believes that a conversation between the EU and Russia is required to protect the bloc's stability and interests.
Macron told reporters on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday that Russia was discussed at the meeting, which was attended by all 27 European presidents, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel.
"We assume this dialogue is necessary for the stability of the European continent and to defend our interests as Europe. I think this is the right way to move forward," he said.
The French president noted that the likely dialogue will proceed according to demanding European standards.
"It will be demanding because we will not give up any of our values," he added.
Macron said the first EU summit with Putin since January 2014 would be a chance for conversation revival, especially in light of the constructive summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden last week, and earned support from Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
According to a draft of the summit declaration reported by Reuters, EU leaders nevertheless will ask the European Commission and the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell for "options for additional restrictive measures, including economic sanctions" against Russia.
Following Crimea's reunification with Russia in 2014, the EU imposed economic sanctions on the Russian energy, financial, and arms industries, as well as individual sanctions against Russian officials. Moscow has repeatedly stressed the double standards of such measures and their lack of any legal basis, noting that the sanctions are counterproductive for EU-Russia relations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that the EU and Russia share responsibility for the future of the region and need to show political will for cooperation based on mutual interests. Only through such joint efforts the sustainable development and security of the European continent can be achieved, the minister concluded.
The Russian top diplomat said that Moscow is hopeful that the deteriorated relations with the European Union can be reversed back to normal if the West abandons its antagonistic propaganda and engages in mutually respectful dialogue.
Over the years, the EU has been chastised by some for its lack of cohesion in its reaction to relations with the Kremlin. But, despite all the sanctions and active opposition to contacts on the part of Poland and the Baltic states, relations between Moscow and Europe have continued to develop in the practical mainstream of trade and joint economic projects.
Macron's comments came just as tensions escalated between London and Moscow in the Black Sea after the UK's HMS Defender approached within around 10 nautical miles of the Crimean shoreline and roughly 15 kilometers of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's home base in Sevastopol, putting the warship about two nautical miles inside Russian waters.
A Russian border patrol vessel fired warning shots after the British destroyer crossed Russian maritime borders, and a Su-24M attack aircraft carried out a fake bombing run against the warship, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated. The Russian government also called the UK's actions a provocation.
As per British officials, the warship was making "innocent passage" through "Ukrainian territorial seas," though they have provided a series of conflicting and contradictory claims about the destroyer's conduct during the incident.
On Thursday, the Russian envoy to the Vienna talks on military security and arms control Konstantin Gavrilov warned the UK that Russia may drop bombs on British warships if they test it again in the Black Sea.
"... next time bombs — if we do choose to go that way — will be dropped on target and not in a ship’s path," Gavrilov said.