02 Apr 2024, 09:08

Blinken in Paris for talks on Ukraine, Gaza

PARIS, April 2, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will
hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday on
supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

France is among major military suppliers to Ukraine, which has faced critical
shortages of arms and troops as it holds off an onslaught of Russian attacks.

The United States has been the key military backer for Ukraine but a $60
billion aid package has been held up in Congress.

Paris has also advocated for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The United States, Israel's main ally, recently let pass a UN Security
Council resolution that calls for a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan.

Blinken will meet with Macron to discuss the mounting international crises,
the French presidency told AFP. He will also have talks with Foreign Minister
Stephane Sejourne.

France held an international conference in February in a bid to rally
financial and military support for Ukraine. The results will be reviewed by
Blinken and French leaders, officials said.

Both sides want an "intensification" of support for Ukraine, a member of
Sejourne's entourage said.

The French minister was in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the Gaza war and in
China on Monday to urge Beijing to press Russia over the Ukraine war.

The French foreign ministry said Sejourne and Blinken will discuss
preparations for a NATO summit in Washington in July, as well as the "crises"
in the Middle East, Ukraine and Sudan.

They will hold a joint press conference after their meeting.

In a symbolic visit, Blinken was to accompany France's Armed Forces Minister
Sebastien Lecornu to a factory near Paris of Franco-German defence group
KNDS, which makes artillery guns being used in Ukraine.

Blinken is also to go to the Paris headquarters of the UN cultural
organisation, UNESCO, that the United States rejoined last year. Blinken will
hold a meeting with UNESCO leader Audrey Azoulay.

The visit marks the first trip to France for Blinken, a fluent French
speaker, in nearly two years.

Macron paid a state visit to Washington in December 2022.

After Paris, Blinken will head to Brussels for NATO foreign ministers' talks
ahead of the alliance's 75th anniversary summit in Washington in July.

Blinken will also hold a three-way meeting in Brussels with EU leaders and
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has been seeking to branch out
from his country's historic alliance with Russia.

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