France, Germany says the publication of notes by Russia violates diplomatic rules

PARIS, Nov 18 (Reuters) – France and Germany accused Russia on Thursday of violating diplomatic protocol after Moscow released its confidential correspondence on Ukraine, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between Moscow and the West.

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a number of diplomatic letters, which it exchanged with Germany and France, to try to show that its stance on negotiations on eastern Ukraine had been misrepresented.

“We consider this approach contrary to diplomatic rules and customs,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters at a daily online briefing.

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France and Germany have said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has refused to hold a so-called Normandy format meeting with his French, German and Ukrainian counterparts, but Russia has said Lavrov is only unavailable for a specific meeting.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel downplayed the significance of Russia’s movement, but said in a press conference that this did not change the fact that no meeting took place, which she regretted.

“The publication of letters is not so surprising. I often read my own letters in the newspapers. We certainly have nothing to hide,” she said at a press conference held on another issue.

But she added that she had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to arrange another round of talks before she left office. That he didn’t do so was a shame, she said, “because meetings have their own dynamics,” and allowed progress to be made even in seemingly unsolvable situations.

Paris had earlier accused Russia of refusing to accept a ministerial meeting with France, Ukraine and Germany to discuss the pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine and denied that it had not responded to proposals made by Moscow.

In a rare response, Russia released 28 pages of diplomatic documents, showing that it had said in advance that Lavrov could not participate in the November 11 proposed meeting.

However, the published documents also showed important differences between Russia, France and Germany.

Russia has attached a draft statement on the “internal Ukrainian conflict”, which Russia has proposed to publish after the eventual Normandy format meeting.

The Normandy format negotiations aim to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv forces and pro-Russian separatists.

On November 4, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a joint letter to Lavrov that the Moscow project has assessments that Germany and France do not share, such as the depiction of ” internal Ukrainian conflict “; among others.

Two European diplomats said Moscow’s publication appeared to be an attempt to sow confusion, but that it went awry because it proved that Moscow was trying to block the process by demanding many preconditions that would ban any hope of holding a meeting.

Legendre called on Russia to return to the negotiating table and continue discussions, but in the “approved formats and according to agreed principles”.

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Reporting by John Irish in Paris Additional reporting by Andrea Rinke and Thomas Escritt in Berlin Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Trust Principles of Thomson Reuters.


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