Macron vows long-term support for Ukraine, cites need to keep Russia contact

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting on education at the amphitheater of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France August 25, 2022. Mohammed Badra/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS, Sept 1 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he would continue to dialogue with Russia to help prevent the Ukraine conflict escalating, but pledged France's unwavering support for Kyiv in what he said would be a long war.

Macron has in the past been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Kyiv since Russia's invasion of its neighbour, and his repeated dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We must prepare for a long war," Emmanuel Macron told his diplomatic corps setting out his foreign policy goals.

He said France would continue long-term backing for Kyiv economically, militarily and with humanitarian aid, but warned that one of the key challenges would be ensuring European unity in the face of Russia.

"European unity is key because division is one of Russia's war objectives," he said.

Macron insisted that talking to Moscow was imperative to avoid escalation in the conflict and ultimately to help set the terms for a negotiated peace, which only Ukraine could decide.

"France will continue to talk to Russia." he said. "Who wants Turkey to be the only power in the world which continues to talk to Russia?"

Reporting by John Irish Editing by Mark Heinrich

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