The war in Ukraine will end at the negotiating table, Rishi Sunak has said, as he vowed to support Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be in the “best possible place to have those talks”.
While the prime minister indicated that now is not the time for those peace talks, he recommitted to providing additional support to Ukraine to ensure it has an advantage on the battlefield.
Sunak’s comments on his way to the first UK-France summit in five years, marked a clear divide with his predecessor Boris Johnson in his stance on how the war against Russia will end. The former prime minister heaped pressure on Sunak, urging the UK to send jets and tanks to help Ukraine “finish the job”.
Speaking on the Eurostar to Paris hours before meeting his “friend” Emmanuel Macron, Sunak said: “We’re providing training to use those capabilities. That’s all under way, as well as just helping defend themselves against the attacks that they’re facing, particularly on their critical national infrastructure. Now, that should be everyone’s focus.
“Of course, this will end as all conflicts do, at the negotiating table, but that is a decision for Ukraine to make. And what we need to do is put them in the best possible place to have those talks at an appropriate moment that makes sense for them.
“But at the moment, the priority has got to be giving them the resources, the training and the support they need to push forward and create advantage on the battlefield.”
The prime minister hopes to start a “new chapter” in his relationship with France, and believes the countries’ shared outlook on restoring peace in Ukraine will deepen and strengthen that relationship.
Over the last few years, relations between France and Britain were rocky under Johnson’s leadership, and worsened with the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron at one point branded Johnson a “clown”. There were infamous face-to-face meetings between the pair, including the awkward moment Macron snubbed Johnson at the extraordinary Nato summit as he decided to greet other leaders first before the group photo.
While there will be a focus on rebuilding more cordial relations following tensions over Brexit and the Ukraine war, Sunak is under domestic pressure to secure a deal on returning people who arrive from France in small boats, and for beefed-up policing of the Channel coast.
After meeting the French president for one-to-one talks in Paris, Sunak announced the UK and France will train Ukrainian marines to fight Putin’s forces.
Speaking at the press conference in Élysée Palace, the prime minister said: “We’ve agreed to train Ukrainian marines, helping to give Ukraine a decisive advantage on the battlefield and for Ukraine to win this war.”
Macron has said he wants to have the “best possible relations” with the UK but they need to “fix” the consequences of Brexit.
Speaking in English at the press conference, the French leader said: “On the short front we have to fix the consequences of the Brexit. Probably some of those consequences were underestimated but we have to fix them.
“What we want to do now is build new partnerships on defence and security, on facing the war (in Ukraine], [and] regarding climate change in order to coordinate our international activity. And for our businesses and our people we want to build new links, new relations.
“My wish, definitely, because it makes sense with our history, our geography, our DNA, I would say, is to have the best possible relations and the closest alliance.
“But it will depend on our commitment, our willingness, but I am sure we will do it.”
The prime minister indicated that the measures will put Ukraine in the best place to negotiate a ceasefire.
Downing Street said no timeframe had been set for when the Ministry of Defence hoped the weapons could be operational.
Source : TheGuardian