PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the need for a de-escalation of the migrant crisis at the Belarus border, even if the two leaders disagreed on the origins of the crisis, a French official said on Monday.
The Western bloc is seeking to stop what it says is a policy by Belarus to push migrants towards the European Union in revenge for earlier sanctions over a crackdown on protests last year against veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election.
Migrants – mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan – began appearing on Belarus’ land borders with the EU this year, trying to cross into member states Lithuania, Latvia and Poland via routes not used before.
“The goal of this call was to put an end to this crisis,” an adviser to Macron told reporters after the 1 hour and 45 minute call Macron initiated.
“On the migration issue, even if there’s no convergence on the origins of the current crisis at the Belarus border, Vladimir Putin told the president he understood the need to put an end to it, first and foremost out of human decency for the migrants that are being instrumentalised,” the adviser said.
Macron also told Putin of his strong concerns over the situation on Ukraine’s borders, where NATO says is a large and unusual concentration of Russian troops.
The French leader told Putin France was ready to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“Our willingness to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was reminded by the president,” the adviser said.
France also offers its full solidarity to Poland, the official said. “We stand ready to help Poland.”
Macron also reiterated to Putin his strong concerns over the possible use of Wagner mercenaries in Mali, the official added.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Chris Reese and Philippa Fletcher)