France says Moscow meeting conditional on 'progress' on Ukraine
France on Wednesday said a ministerial meeting next week announced by the Kremlin would be conditional on "progress" on Ukraine.
The March 18 meeting involving the French foreign and defence ministers with Russian officials will take place "if there is progress in the Ukraine case," the French presidency said.
This was after French President Francois Hollande told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by telephone that Crimea joining Russia would amount to an "unacceptable annexation".
An aide to Hollande said talks in Moscow would only materialise "if on the Russian side there are factors which lead us to believe that such a meeting could be useful."
On Sunday, Ukraine's Russian-speaking region of Crimea holds a referendum on whether to break away from the ex-Soviet country and join Russia.
Hollande said earlier Wednesday that the planned referendum had no legal basis and called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region.
Russian troops took control of Crimea shortly after Ukraine's pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month, in what is Moscow's first military involvement in a neighbouring country since its brief 2008 war with Georgia.
© 2014 AFP