'We don't want to fight Russia': Ukraine, France
Ukraine's interim government and France on Wednesday played down the prospect of a full-blown conflict with Russia ahead of potentially crucial talks on the Crimea crisis in Paris.
"We want to keep good dialogue, good relations with the Russian people," Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said after meeting his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.
"We want to settle this conflict peacefully. We don't want to fight with Russia."
Fabius added: "The position of France, which is shared by Germany and others, is to be very firm with Mr Putin, on the one hand, and, on the other, to move towards dialogue.
"We are not going to declare war on the Russians but what they are doing is unacceptable. It is the invasion of one country by another," the French minister said.
Deshchytsya is hoping to have a face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due here later in the day, but that has not been confirmed.
Deshchytsya and Fabius met ahead of a pre-arranged international meeting on Lebanon which Lavrov was due to attend along with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, amongst others.
Lavrov is due to have a bilateral meeting with Kerry.
Fabius said France and Germany had drawn up a plan mapping a way out of the current crisis, based on the creation of an international Contact Group involving Russia, Ukraine and the major western powers.
"We will see if they (the Russians) accept to discuss it," Fabius said.
The Franco-German plan is a tweaked version of one which was discussed last month after violent clashes in Kiev between the authorities and pro-European demonstrators, Fabius said.
It envisages a national unity government, a pullback of Russian forces, the dissolution of extremist militias and moves to organise a presidential election as quickly as possible, he added.
Fabius added that France would consider Russian agreement to join a Contact Group as a positive sign of a desire to reduce tensions, possibly allowing the European Union to hold off on threatened sanctions against Moscow.
© 2014 AFP