France sees ‘diplomatic hope’ to resolve Ukraine crisis with summit

France said on Monday it sees a chance to resolve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine over Moscow's troop build-up after Vladimir Putin agreed to a summit with US President Joe Biden, proposed by Emmanuel Macron.

France sees 'diplomatic hope' to resolve Ukraine crisis with summit
Russian premier Vladimir Putin and French president Emmanuel Macron. Photos: AFP

“There is a diplomatic hope that was revived by the president” with the summit proposal, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune told LCI TV, referring to Macron.

“If there is still a chance to avoid war, to avoid a confrontation and build a political and diplomatic solution, then we need to take it.”

The White House said Biden had in principle agreed to a meeting with Putin, so long as Moscow does not invade Ukraine, following talks Macron held with both leaders on Sunday.

According to the Elysée, both leaders accepted the summit proposal, with preparations due to be carried out by the top Russian and US diplomats on Thursday.

The French presidency also emphasised that such a meeting could be held only “on the condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine.”

But the Kremlin on Monday said it was “premature” to organise a US-Moscow for the time being.

The meeting proposal was raised after Macron held two telephone conversations with Putin on Sunday alone.

The possible summit is a sign that “a political solution could be possible”, Beaune said. He said that the summit should take place “as soon as possible” but no date had been fixed.

Beaune also appeared to rule out major concessions to Russia such as over the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Moscow in 2014 or over Kremlin demands that Ukraine should never join NATO.

He said: “We do not have the attitude of making unacceptable concessions… It cannot be Russia who decides unilaterally who goes into which alliance and over the borders that were recognised and stabilised thirty years ago.”

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‘Affaire Mila’: Six convicted for harassing French teen over anti-Islam videos

A French court convicted six people on Tuesday for harassing a teen online over her anti-Islam videos in a case that sparked debate about free speech and the right to insult religions.

'Affaire Mila': Six convicted for harassing French teen over anti-Islam videos

The girl, known as Mila, was forced to change schools and accept police protection due to threats to her life after videos in which she insulted Islam went viral in January 2020 and November the same year.

The court handed sentences ranging from a three-month suspended prison term to four months with an electronic bracelet to the two men and four women, aged 19 to 39.

The six were ordered to pay damages of €3,000 ($3,200) each to Mila.

“Their conviction was necessary,” said Mila’s lawyer Richard Malka, but added that he felt no satisfaction at seeing them sentenced.

READ MORE: What is the ‘Affaire Mila’ and what does it say about France and Islam?

“My only satisfaction would be if Mila were able to lead a normal life… and that is not the case,” Malka said.

In the first viral video posted on Instagram in January 2020, Mila responded to personal abuse from a boy who she says insulted her about her sexuality “in the name of Allah”.

She launched into an expletive-laden rant against Islam along with other explicit comments about Allah deemed highly offensive to practising Muslims.

She published a second video with similar content in November of the same year, after a jihadist killing of French high-school teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown students controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Mila’s lawyer says she received over 100,000 extremely virulent messages in response to the videos, with one person writing that Mila deserved “to have her throat cut”, while others threatened sexual assault.

In July 2021, a French court convicted 11 people for harassment and handed suspended sentences, with some ordered to pay damages of 1,500 euros.

The case has received widespread public attention because it touches on hotly contested issues in France, from cyber harassment to the right to blaspheme, and attitudes to religious minorities.