“Everyone wants the conflict to find a solution, but it must be fair for the Ukrainian people”

James Claverly is the British Foreign Secretary in the Conservative government led by Rishi Sunak. He was in Paris for the November 11 commemorations and the Paris Peace Forum. After years of post-Brexit bickering, especially while Boris Johnson and then more briefly Liz Truss were prime ministers, the UK and France are hoping to restore their relationship. In an interview at World, the new minister believes that the war in Ukraine has strengthened cooperation between the allies, and in particular between Paris and London.

What is the meaning for you of the current events in Kherson?

Even before the Russian invasion took place, I always said that it was necessary to count on the fact that the Ukrainians, in my opinion, would defend their country at any cost [en cas d’agression]. This is exactly what we are witnessing. They are still registering more success on the battlefield in repelling the Russian forces.

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Is the Russian withdrawal from Kherson significant enough to start thinking about the time after the war, or is it too soon?

We should be very, very careful and not rush things. What we must recognize is that Ukraine continues to need our support, as the G7 foreign ministers confirmed last week in Germany. Decisions about the conflict must be taken by the Ukrainian leadership, by President Zelensky. We will all continue to support Ukraine until a satisfactory outcome emerges for her.

France ultimately supports the prospect of negotiations, against the advice of many of Ukraine’s allies…

I don’t believe that the French and British positions are very far apart. I have read the strategic review that the French government has just adopted, and I see many similarities in it with our own strategic vision. Everyone wants the conflict to find a solution, but it must be fair for the Ukrainian people. This will be the test to evaluate any form of conclusion. It is their country that has been attacked, it is their citizens that have been killed, their cities that have been bombed. It is therefore up to the leadership of this State to choose the modalities of a possible negotiation.

Will Putin be an interlocutor after the fighting?

Negotiations will have to take place between the Ukrainians and the Russians. Many leaders, including President Macron, tried to persuade Vladimir Putin to make the right choices. There was a major effort in this direction before the outbreak of the invasion. The UK obviously does not have this type of communication with President Putin.

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